Father's Day—the official observance of everything paternal—varies from Mother's Day, a celebration that typically revolves around four traditions: brunch, bling, bouquets, and greeting cards. Gifts for Dad generally cater to his unique personal interests and hobbies, with an eye toward the masculine—think tools, sports equipment, and the mandatory tie. GreenYour has pinpointed a few Dad's Day conventions with the biggest eco-impacts—ones that tend to displease Big Momma, Mother Earth. So how do you delight Big Daddy while scoring green points? Read on.
Green greetings on his big day
Although sending an e-card in lieu of an old-fashioned snail mail missive may be considered gauche, it is undoubtedly green—that is unless Big Daddy is an octogenarian with limited knowledge of or access to the Web. Plenty of virtual stationery stores offer Dad's Day sentiments ranging from sassy to more sentimental. If Dad's not constantly online, remind him to fire up the PC on his special day and why not follow up with a call? He'd love to hear your voice.
If you do go the way of the envelope, digest this: Father's Day is the fourth most popular card-sending holiday behind Mother's Day—105 million cards are sent—resulting in a whole lot of paper waste and eco-damage. Greeting cards initially consume virgin resources (trees, water, fuel) before ending up in landfills as part of the approximately 85 million tons of paper waste generated by Americans in 2006. Additionally, that innocuous, sweet greeting card plays into paper production's responsibility for about a fifth of the total wood harvest worldwide. Though the pulp and paper industry has made great strides over the past 20 years, there are still significant ecological effects in the process of making paper products, especially those products made from virgin trees. In addition to tree loss, the virgin timber-based pulp and paper industry is the third largest industrial emitter of global warming pollution, with carbon dioxide emissions projected to double by 2020.
A solution without having to hit the “send” button: Seek out greeting cards made from recycled-content paper and ones made from tree-free materials like hemp, bamboo, and kenaf. Alternative fiber greeting cards are relatively easy to find and come in all shapes and sizes.
Bottoms up eco-style
Not to play into Homer Simpson-esque stereotypes, but there are quite a few dads out there who make a habit of unwinding after a long day of work or on the weekends with a cold one or two. The eco-impact of Dad's imbibing? Given that the water-intensive beer brewing process begins with the production of mostly conventionally farmed crops, many beers contain some residues from chemical pesticides and fertilizers that not only harm human and animal health, but also pollute ecosystems and waterways. And given the popularity of beer—especially imported varieties—issues of fuel-intensive transportation and wasteful packaging also arise.
Although they might be harder to find and cost a bit more, alternatives to the mass-produced, watered-down, chemically-treated brews are available. Consider organic (crafted from organically grown ingredients without sacrificing taste) and local (less carbon intensive and often sustainably brewed) beers. And if Dad is a rabid beer connoisseur, help get him started with home brewing, a practice that cuts out excessive packaging, transport-related carbon emissions, and lets him use organic ingredients, if he's so inclined.
The best part of getting Dad started on a green beer regimen? It's better for his health. Organic and craft-brewed beers offer higher levels of vitamins and antioxidants—the darker the beer, the higher the levels. Mass-produced beers opt for cheaper malts, such as rice and corn (versus barley), the result being a lighter-tasting, paler, less nutrient-rich brew.
Dress him up in green love
Unless Dad is a sartorial-minded, lifelong GQ subscriber, chances are clothes shopping isn't one of his most beloved pastimes. In fact, a bulk of his wardrobe may consist of items picked out and given to him by others as gifts (or out of pure desperation). Even though Dad may not have fashion on the brain, chances are he does have a preferred style—hopefully not sneakers worn with black knee-high socks, sweatpants, and a T-shirt that predates the advent of color television.
When attempting to give Dad's wardrobe (whether corporate or casual) a green makeover, keep a wary eye out for conventional cotton, considered to be the world's most pesticide-intensive crop. While only 2.4 percent of farmland worldwide is dedicated to cotton, it accounts for 24 percent of global insecticide sales. In total, $2 billion worth of chemicals are sprayed on global cotton crops each year, almost half of which are classified as hazardous by the World Health Organization (WHO). The various chemicals used to treat conventional cotton can harm beneficial insects and soil microorganisms, pollute ground and surface water, and adversely affect the health of humans and wildlife—including fish, birds, and livestock.
Eco-friendly fashion for men is currently big business so you shouldn't have any problem gifting Dad with clothing made from organic cotton or natural materials, such as hemp or bamboo. Choices range from sweaters, jeans, tees, underwear, outerwear, shoes, and more. Dad might balk at sporting a hemp blazer to the office, but a soft, luxurious sweater made from organic wool could certainly make the cut.
I'll have the green eggs and ham, please
For many, a scrumptious Dad's Day dinner is de rigueur. Before you sit down to order (or scuttle over to the buffet) chew on this: Restaurants consume more energy per square foot than any other US industry—over 2.5 times the average commercial building. They also use large amounts of water and produce an average of 50,000 pounds of trash a piece per year. This year, treat Dad to a green meal by seeking out a certified green eatery or a restaurant serving organic and/or local vittles. Does Dad have a taste for steak? Ask (on his behalf) if it's grass-fed. And is he complementing that prime rib with a glass of vino? Make sure it's the one produced close to home. Check please...
- The Green Guide - Getting the Goods for Dad
- eHow.com - How to Give a Green Father's Day Gift
- The Family Groove - Green Days: The Jolly Green Dad
- The Daily Green - The Stingy Dad Guide to Father's Day
- Ideal Bite - Doesn't Dad deserve a reward for putting up with all those novelty ties, year after year?
- Hallmark - Holiday Card-Sending Statistics
- US Environmental Protection Agency - Municipal Solid Waste - Commodities: Paper and Paperboard Products
- Worldwatch Institute - Good Stuff? - Paper
- Natural Resources Defense Council - Reforming the Paper Industry
- Modern Brewery Age - Hops in beer often laced with pesticides, writer says
- The O' Mama Report - Organic Beer
- Organic Consumers Association - Clothes for a Change: Background Info
- Earth Justice Foundation - The Deadly Chemicals in Cotton
- Pesticide Action Network North America - Problems with conventional cotton production
- Energy Information Administration - Food Service Buildings
- Thimmakka - History
- Environmental News Network - Maximum Impact Restaurant Greening
- Hospitality Net - Hey Kermit, Being Green Is Getting Easier (part I)