Busting Out of the Gift Rut, the Green Way

Written by Kerry Crisley

I’m in a gift-giving rut.

I pulled out my holiday gift list the other day and the realization hit me: it’s so much stuff. And much of it is very similar to all the stuff I bought for people last year.

I can do better, can’t I? There must be a way to give gifts that are meaningful, enjoyable and useful, but that don’t take up so much space or materials. So here’s my holiday gift list, Take Two.

For the Athlete: A Trail Pass or Lift Ticket

There are so, so many benefits to being outside. We know this. And yet, too often we let life get in the way of our time in nature, especially in winter. Not this year. I’m slipping a cross country trail pass into my husband’s stocking. It uses next-to-no wrapping paper and doesn’t require storage space. And since it’s already paid for, it provides that extra bit of encouragement to get outside and use it.

Pattee Canyon, Montana

For the Smart Phone Addict: “Green” Phone Cases and Ear Buds

Let’s just accept that everyone has a smart phone (except me, it seems).  Rather than fight it, this year I’m going to help people prolong theirs with protective cases made from recycled plastic or aluminum, like the ones made by Case Mate. And when my friends plug in to rock out, they can use ear buds made from bamboo or recycled plastic.

Bamboo earbuds

For the Fashionista: Recycled Yarn Goodies

As December approaches every year, many of us lie awake gnawing at that age-old philosophical question: where do holiday sweaters go to die? I have discovered the answer, my friends. These expanses of yarn stitched into snowflakes, twinkling lights, holly and reindeer undergo a metamorphosis and emerge, renewed, as… mittens! And scarfs, and hats. This phenomenon can be found at many of your local craft/gift shops, or online at sites like Uncommon Goods and Etsy.

Recycled mittens

For the Summer Party Host: a Greener Outdoor Wine Glass

Not that I’m counting, but it’s six months until Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer and the official start of wait-don’t-take-that-glass-outside season. But instead of stocking up on disposable cups (The horror! The waste! The disrespect to vintners!), my buddies will enjoy their poolside/beachside/fireside cabernet in style. These eco-friendly cups come in stainless steel or BPA-free copolyester (with stems or stemless, too!) and can be found at most outdoor stores, like REI.


For the Kids, Part 1: A family Membership to Our Zoo or Aquarium

The scene: my home on a chilly, overcast Saturday. As the day wears on, the boundaries of the playroom grow smaller. Then, inspiration strikes. Hats, mittens and coats are donned. The car is started. Excitement builds unity between siblings. We arrive at the place where my kids know they can run free, greeting the hosts by name like the old friends they are. We arrive at… our local zoo. By now, my kids know every inch of it, but they’re still enthralled. Will the snow leopard be out? How many flamingos have laid eggs? Has the baby spider monkey grown? Each visit gets them outside (a benefit in itself), and further solidifies the bond they’ve developed with the animals that live there. And since a membership often pays for itself after just two or three visits, I save hundreds of dollars in the course of a year.

Kids at the Philadelphia Zoo

For the Kids, Part 2: Eco-friendly Crafts and Toys

Yes, they love the zoo, but I’m a realist, too. I know that my kids – like most – still want to rip open brightly-wrapped boxes and start playing right then and there. For my daughter the craft-maker, I’m getting a set of paint-it-yourself wood crafts (nesting dolls, birdhouses and more) made from sustainable bamboo. For my son the inventor, a science kit full of do-it-yourself experiments and a kid’s cookbook. These and other great green toys can be found at your local toy store or online at sites like Growing Tree Toys.

Earth Lab Science Kit

I like this new list. I like that I’ll be getting the people I love outside more, and even though there’s still some “stuff” on here, I like that I’m supporting businesses (be they in my hometown or online) that are making the effort to go a little greener. It’s a bit of gift to myself, really… although I’m still planning to slip a ski trail pass into my own stocking as well.

[Image: Pattee Canyon, Montana. Image source: Ted Wood. Image: Bamboo earbuds. Image source: Betaroomega. Image: Recycled mittens. Image: JewelrybyJayne/Etsy. Image: Eco-friendly wine glasses. Image source: gophodotcom/Flickr. Kids at the Philadelphia Zoo. Image source: fPat/Flickr. Image: Earth Lab Science Kit. Image source: Growing Tree Toys]