Dear EarthTalk: I would like to make my holiday gifts matter this year. Where can I find ideas for green gifts? -- Mary Baumgartner, via e-mail
The holidays are a great time of year to share your enthusiasm for protecting the environment with family and friends. One meaningful gift -- a fashion-forward T-shirt from Rain Tees -- can help fight environmental destruction far away while raising awareness here at home.
Every Rain Tee is handmade in the U.S. from eco-friendly fabrics and features original artwork created by children living in countries facing rampant deforestation. For every T-shirt the company sells, proceeds help the cause and Rain Tees' charity partner, Trees for the Future, will plant a tree in a critically endangered part of the world.
Another way to link your gifting and philanthropic tendencies is to donate to the Paradigm Project to help purchase clean-burning stoves for poor families in Africa. Your donation goes toward reducing deforestation and respiratory disease in a developing country, and the Paradigm Project will send you a unique holiday ornament in exchange.
Many other nonprofits also provide holiday season incentives to donate to their causes in the name of a friend or loved one. To wit, the Natural Resources Defense Council's Green Gifts website offers dozens of gift opportunities related to various campaigns the organization is conducting around the world.
By donating through the Green Gifts program, you and your gift recipient can help defend polar bears, protect clean water, revive rainforests or promote renewable energy, among other options. Similar land and species "adoption" programs that can be leveraged as holiday gifts are available from groups such as the Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund and the Defenders of Wildlife.
If not spending money is a priority this holiday season, you can make artwork or functional items out of leftover materials otherwise headed for the trash can or recycling bin. Handmade gifts in any form are always appreciated and will likely be cherished for much longer than anything store-bought.
But if making your own presents isn't your thing, a wide range of green gifts, large and small, can be found online. Some companies that specialize in fairly traded, sustainably sourced gift-worthy items include the Hunger Site Store, Branch, Low Impact Living, BGreen Apparel, A Greener Kitchen, Green Heart and Organic Bug, among many others.
Once you've completed your green shopping, wrap your gifts in the festive designs of Earth Presents, which sells 100 percent recycled/recyclable gift wraps. For still more ideas on where to source that perfect green gift, check out the website of the nonprofit Green America, which provides links on its website to dozens of firms that sell sustainable wares.
No doubt it feels good to go green over the holidays, given the excess we typically associate with gift giving. And given the poor state of the economy, it makes sense to give gifts that will last, whether they involve furthering important environmental work or providing items that haven't caused unnecessary environmental destruction in their manufacture and that won't break down once the holidays are over.
EarthTalk is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E-The Environmental Magazine. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Subscribe at www.emagazine.com/subscribe.