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Green Shopping Tips For The Holidays
Holiday gift giving has changed a lot in the last few years, people have less money to waste and consumers are much more aware of the impact of their purchases on the environment and society. Let’s face it, there are tons of holidays to consider, including Christmas, birthdays, Secretary’s Day, anniversaries, and Valentine’s. Gift-giving doesn’t end there – when we’re invited to dinner, for example, we often feel compelled to bring a long gift.
The combined impact of these special days and events can be huge. Christmas alone is responsible for 25% more waste sent to landfill. Halloween is actually responsible for more waste than Christmas. Recognizing the incredible waste that is generated, the imperative to do something becomes apparent. When shopping for gifts, look for the most eco-friendly option available to you – for example, is it made locally, uses recycled materials, is the packaging recyclable, does the company use solar or wind power, etc. If you decide to buy electronics, consider those that are powered by solar cells or rechargeable batteries.
Conscious shoppers tend to embrace practical, durable, eco-friendly gifts that can provide some comfort or financial benefit. At the same time, it’s nice to find ways to ease the guilt on special days of spending big, wrapping paper, and traveling. Here’s a short list of thrifty and eco-friendly ideas to inspire your gift shopping this year. If some of these seem too small, consider combining some of these items into an organic gift basket. Most thrift stores have stacks of beautiful baskets waiting for the creative shopper.
For the home owner – Thermostatic control that automatically lowers the heat at night, low flow shower attachment and pipes for sealing or weather stripping. Dimmer switches, energy efficient lighting (CFL or LED); yellow bulbs are perfect for outdoor lighting because they attract fewer insects. Hot water tank insulation kits and hot water pipe insulation kits are also great ideas. Consider adding some electrical outlet and light switch insulation kits (the little foam inserts that go behind the plug and switch covers located on the exterior walls).
For the gardener – Subscribe to an organic gardening magazine or save a seed variety from extinction on behalf of a friend or join a seed organization. Bird, bat and butterfly houses, baths and feeders – or patterns to make them – make a wonderful gift. Alternatively, consider composting bins, worm bins, gift certificates for a daycare center, or membership in an environmental group.
Give services – Instead of giving an item to be wrapped, consider buying tickets to a show, restaurant gift certificates, or services such as lawn care, cleaning, music lessons, exercise or dance classes, tuning, or tire change services. When looking at gift certificates, don’t forget to look at dog walking, babysitting and massage, spas or gyms. All of these ideas will help you support local businesses you believe in, while giving something that can really benefit the recipient.
Give me food – Homemade preserves, such as dehydrated or canned foods, make great gifts. Many people find cooking cumbersome and appreciate ready-to-cook frozen meals such as lasagna, pasta and stews. Snacks and desserts are appreciated by most people. Fill reusable mason jars with all the dry ingredients for a recipe, such as brownies or cookies, and include instructions to bake them at their convenience. Remember that buying Brazil nuts or cashews supports tropical rainforests. Healthy food baskets are another wonderful idea to consider – especially if they contain samples from local producers.
Plants – living plants clean the air and provide a wonderful atmosphere. You may have plants or know someone that you could take a leaf or division from, root and plant these new plants and share them with your friends. You can find unique pots and pans at most thrift stores.
books – Most of us are aware of the benefits of literacy and supporting local businesses. You can do both by choosing to buy books as gifts this year and support your local bookstore and local authors. You can also leave a legacy with your book. It could be a journal, a collection of poetry, a family tree you’ve researched, or even a family recipe book. You might consider including quotes from family members or people you admire, and possibly some favorite family photos.
Alternative gifts – Reusable coffee filter and whole organic coffee beans make a nice gift for coffee lovers. Consider slippers and sweaters, as the recipient is less likely to turn up their thermostat. Choose toys and games with positive environmental or educational values and those that emphasize cooperation, exploration or creative thinking.
Consider purchasing a set of heavy-duty reusable square-bottom washable shopping bags. There are many variations to choose from, including those created from recycled plastic bottles, coffee bag material, renewable crops such as bamboo or hemp, and many other eco-friendly options. How many bags per recipient? Typically, 12 bags will probably cover most shopping activities for a family of 2-3, while 6-8 bags are fine for an individual.
Go one step further and purchase a set of mesh produce bags – this gift will reduce or eliminate the need to use the clear bags available in the fresh produce section of the grocery store. These are washable, see-through and made from a very fine mesh material, they weigh next to nothing so they won’t affect the price when you check them out at checkout.
Want another option to reduce plastic waste? Consider gifting a set of stainless steel straws. These are dishwasher safe and eliminate the need for plastic straws.
Tree: Donate or purchase a live tree or sponsor a non-profit organization to plant one in your friend’s honor. If you have purchased a live Christmas tree, after the season is over, you can donate it to individuals who have space on their property, town, schools or parks. Or you can plant it in your yard for privacy, summer shade, or soil and water erosion control. Trees are incredibly beneficial to pollinators and birds and are very effective at removing carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, ammonia, ozone and nitrogen oxides from our air.
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