Have a Merry Green Christmas!

Posted on December 11th, 2008 in Green Gift Ideas by Michele Felder

I have been on a personal mission the last few Christmases. A mission to reduce the amount of Stuff that comes into our house. Especially Stuff that is opened, reviewed, and quickly forgotten.  Just ask my kids about the 5-letter word that I utter loudly as I tour their rooms or the playroom – STUFF!

Last year, we took a vow of fewer gifts for the kids, which we implemented with some success. We also came up with an idea to give activity gift vouchers (quality time spent together) instead of ‘things’. At first we weren’t sure that giving a voucher for a “hike with mommy” or a “dinner at a restaurant of your choice” to the kids would quite measure up to the thrill of tearing off wrapping paper and seeing the latest electronic toy or plastic-encased item from Toys R Us, but surprisingly these gifts ended up being the most valued ones after the Christmas day ‘high’ had passed.  The goal was one on one time between one parent and one child and it worked!  They even asked for more. 

So, as I was contemplating how to further reduce Stuff, it occurred to me that we could make all our gifts work harder.  We could give environmentally-friendly gifts to family members who wouldn’t normally consider them. We could buy books or products that supported an environmental or education organization.  We could donate money to a charity in their name. In fact, when I started thinking about it, I realized that there was a whole world of potential gifts that could support our environmental ideals of reducing consumption and waste, but also engaging and supporting us in our mission to improve the way we live. 

So here are some ideas of ways to be more environmentally friendly during the holidays:

REDUCE

As a starting point, get the whole family to watch “The Story of Stuff” http://www.storyofstuff.com/ – this is a great video that talks about where stuff comes from and what happens to it when we are done. Gets you thinking about whether we really need more. 

Next, give gift vouchers for activities together, in other words, time not things! Your kids or spouse will be surprised and perhaps a bit initially confused, but ultimately, we have loved the activities we did one on one and the kids even asked for more certificates!  With our busy lives, we found that the 1:1 activities felt the most special since we rarely get that dedicated time.  You can be quite creative with what the certificates look like: hand-written in a card, create your own ‘official’ template on the computer, download a standard template in your document program of choice.  Here are some ideas for activities to do together: hikes/walks, dinner at restaurant of their choice, sports together (bike ride, rugby, soccer, frisbee, kayak), Disneyland or Ocean Park or Museum visit; movie or Omnimax of their choice; nice picnic lunch with a book or board game; girls – manicure/pedicure voucher together with mom; spouse – date night or  tickets to show.

Sponsor or donate to a cause of their choice.  I have a mother-in-law who is dedicated to animals. This year I donated on her behalf to the SPCA. They will send her a certificate that says what she has ‘purchased’ (a dog bed and toys) and will also provide her a quarterly magazine to keep up with the local activities and issues.  Most organizations now provide some kind of card or certificate, but make sure they send it to your gift-ee and thank them, rather than you.  For global organizations, you may want to donate in the country where they live or for a particular program they would be interested in. Here are some ideas of organizations you can consider (environmental and other):  www.animalsasia.org  ; http://www.wwf.org/ ; http://www.seabirds.org/adopt.htm ; http://www.spca.com/ ; http://www.conservation.org/ ; http://www.heifer.org/ ; www.roomtoread.org ; http://oxfamunwrapped.oxfam.org.hk/index.php?lang=eng ; http://www.greenpeace.org/international/

RE-USE AND RECYCLE

If you do buy a physical gift, make your spending count by buying or sending products from recycled materials. There is an amazing selection of creative ideas appearing everywhere these days.  Some can be bought locally, some are online.  Do a search online for ‘recycled gifts’ and you’ll see all kinds of ideas. 

In Hong Kong, look for www.bezandoho.com (cool bags made from used colourful rice sacks)

Internationally: http://www.greentoys.com/ ; http://www.reusablebags.com/ ; http://www.wornagain.co.uk/ ; http://repurposed4you.com/shop/ ; http://www.carbonneutral.com/shop/index.asp ; www.patagonia.com (clothing made from recycled polyester) ; www.timberland.com (boots made with recycled rubber and organic components) ; http://aardbird.com/recycledfleece.aspx (products from recycled plastic) ; http://www.ecotopia.co.uk/pages/default.aspx ; http://www.carbonneutral.com/shop/index.asp

SUSTAINABLE

A lot of different gifts can fall into this category, whether you consider clothing made from bamboo or organic cotton, organic food and wine, fair trade products, natural soaps and lotions, solar chargers for electronics. Really if we just think for a few minutes, we could choose to only buy products that are made responsibly and sustainably.  As a gift you could give a basket of organic fruit and cheese, select some lotions or soaps made naturally, or give a soft blanket made from bamboo.

In Hong Kong, look for these companies: http://www.ecosensehk.com/ ; www.kinoa-shop.com (in DB) ; http://www.threesixtyhk.com/  (in Central)

Internationally or with local distribution, consider these products which have a foundational ethic of producing eco-friendly sustainable products:  Tom’s of Maine; Burt’s Bees (available at GNC) ; Body Shop (fair trade products) ; beer home brewing products  http://www.breworganic.com/index.asp ;

For saving electricity consider a solar charger for the iPhone : http://www.solararcadia.com/products/iphone-solar-charger-01 or other electronic devices: http://www.solio.com/charger/index.htm ; or solar battery chargers from Kinoa-online ; or a nice basket of assorted CFLs?

EDUCATIONAL

Educating kids and adults about the environment is also a great way to use your spending power!  There are a million books and magazines out there about the environment, but here is a small selection of ideas to consider.

Subscription to National Geographic’s Magazine on environmental living, The Green Guide: http://www.thegreenguide.com/, paper version or digital (save trees and reduce carbon from shipping!)

Books for kids about saving the planet: http://www.bogeybugz.com/book.html  available at Page One, Dymocks and Bookazine, as well as from DB business Little Miss Green the Party Queen.

“Living Green in Hong Kong” — Catherine Touzard (DB author)

“Hot, Flat, and Crowded”   – Thomas Friedman

“Animal, vegetable, miracle” – Barbara Kingsolver

“The Economics of Climate Change:The Stern Review” – Nicholas Stern

“50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth” (updated and revised) – by John Javna, Sophie Javna, Jesse Javna [also a kids version available]

 NEED MORE GIFT IDEAS?  

Check these sites:

http://www.thegreenguide.com/issue.mhtml?i=111

http://www.edf.org/article.cfm?contentID=5616

http://www.treehugger.com/giftguide/

 Have some creative ideas we didn’t include? Add them to the website at www.dbgreen.org under ‘green gift ideas’.  Happy shopping and giving!

 -Michele

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