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Buying eco-friendly gifts for friends, family, and colleagues can be stressful and costly, especially if you want to keep your earth-conscious principles in mind. With a bill totalling nearly $1,000 per American, it’s no wonder holiday shopping occupies so much of our mental and emotional energy during the latter part of the year.[1] So this year, whether you’re celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah, why not make things easier on yourself by putting those dollars to good green use by buying eco-friendly gifts?

What to look for when seeking out eco-friendly gifts

We’ve got green gift giving ideas that’ll surprise, delight, and inspire every person on your list, but as you’re browsing online or in store, keep some essential earth-conscious advice in mind:

  • CO2-conscious businesses: Make informed shopping decisions that support companies involved in the fight against climate change. Climate Counts, an organization working to bring consumers and companies together to fight climate change, has ranked dozens of companies against 22 different climate-related criteria. You can download a summary of their findings in their convenient pocket guide, or simply text “cc” followed by the name of the company you’re interested in to “30644” and you’ll receive information about them directly to your mobile phone while you shop!
  • Recycled content: You’d be surprised how many recycled-content options are now available—everything from shoes to gardening tools, jewelry to furniture, books and magazines to stationary.
  • Green certifications: Whether you need trendy clothes, tasty treats, or tantalizing spa products, you can green-up your gift purchases by choosing certifiably-green options you can trust to be more earth-friendly. Here, too, GreenYour’s got you covered with an array of cruelty-free soaps and makeup, Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee and chocolate, Forest Stewardship Council Certified pencils, crayons, paper, and toys. You can also look for low-toxin items such as Green Seal Certified furniture, EPEAT Certified computers and electronics, and GreenGuard Certified desk chairs.
  • Energy- and money-savers: Wanna lighten the load for your gift recipients? Then why not look for products that’ll help them save money by cutting energy consumption? Stuff stockings with simple CFL or LED light bulbs, wattage monitors, and power strips. Help them power up sustainably with a solar battery charger or power down with battery-free toys or a flameless solar oven. Make it easier for them to create a more energy-efficient home with window film and light timers. Or get them saving money and reducing waste by making their own soda, wine, beer, compost, or soap.
  • Renewable, biodegradable materials: Rather than polyester and other synthetic fabrics, choose bath and bed linens, bathroom and spa accessories, baby clothes and toys, as well as T-shirts and underwear made from bamboo, hemp, or silk—natural fibers that are rapidly renewable and biodegradable.
  • Pesticide-free: In the realm of Certified Organic products, there’s a whole array of options with something for everyone—personal care products (body scrubs, bath gels, perfumes and colognes); baby items (crib sheets, clothes, bibs); food and beverages (wine, chocolate, coffee); and clothing (jeans, sweaters)—all which are healthier, more natural choices compared to pesticide-laden conventional cotton options.

Of course, a great way to avoid purchasing something that has the potential to break, get lost, or be stolen is to give intangible gifts. They require minimal wrapping (if any at all), avoid packaging, require few fossil fuels to ship, and result in long-lasting memories. Here are a few ideas:

  • Green travel and events: Forgo gifts that can break or be misplaced and send your loved ones on an eco-adventure instead by giving them gift certificates for travel by super efficient train, bus, hybrid car, or eco-cruise ship to sustainably-managed hotels and sustainable destinations. And don’t forget the local, organic dining options!
  • Treat them to eco-friendly services: Spoil your friends and family by giving them gift certificates for eco-friendly services such as green landscaping, organic catering, a home energy audit, or a day at an earth-friendly spa. Alternatively, you can give “donations of time” by offering gift certificates for back rubs, lawn mowing, baking, and house chores.
  • Donate to environmental causes: Make contributions (Hanukkah gelt in the form of Tzedakah for you Jewish folk) to a worthy environmental organization, or buy carbon offsets in the names of your gift recipients.

And as you shop, combine your earth-minded purchases with some good buying principles, like shopping locally to support local businesses and cut your carbon emissions; shopping online when you’re not in a rush for things to arrive; carrying your own reusable shopping bag; opting for the eco-friendly packaging option when all else is equal; and charging your purchases to a green credit card to support earth-friendly organizations.

Find it! Unique, green holiday gifts

Need even more holiday gift giving ideas? Don’t settle for uninteresting last minute gifts. Instead, try some of these green giving ideas:

Buying green gifts helps you go green because...

  • It reflects your commitment to living green and supports eco-friendly businesses.
  • Buying energy-efficient, sustainable, recyclable products helps your gift recipient achieve a smaller eco-footprint.

In 2006, Americans spent nearly $32 billion dollars on holiday gifts, decorations, and festivities, with $21 billion spent online.[2] Gift giving, which makes up a large portion of total holiday spending, is an enjoyable way to celebrate the season, but the resulting waste can be a real downer for those concerned about the environmental impact of their generosity. Not only do gifts entail oft-wasteful wrapping, they also require the extraction of new natural resources during production, and energy for transport from extraction site to manufacturer to recipient, much of which can be wasted in no time when a gift doesn’t suit the recipient’s tastes or needs.

Whether or not a gift is desired, many will inevitably end up in the trash. In 2005, over 245 million tons of garbage were produced in the US. Each American resident generates approximately 4.5 pounds (a little over 2 kilos) of garbage every day, and much more during the holidays.[3] In fact, US residents generate more solid waste than the residents of any other country. Canadians generate the next largest amount of waste, about 3.75 pounds (1.7 kilos) each per day, whereas Germany and Sweden produce less than 2 pounds per day (less than 1 kilo) per person, the least of all the industrialized nations.[4]

Buying gifts made of eco-friendly or recycled materials (ones that are recyclable, too!) is good for the environment for a variety of reasons. Choosing products made with natural, renewable materials means less land, water, and chemicals are used to produce the finished item. Recycled content products also require much less energy, water, and virgin resources. And recycling programs even play a role in reducing emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases—they’re estimated to have kept the equivalent of 39 million car's worth of carbon out of the atmosphere in 2005.[3]

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