How to Go Green: Gift Giving


Is anything more wonderful than finding the perfect gift for someone, or receiving the present that's just what you needed? How about gift-giving accompanied by the knowledge that your gift is also a gift for the planet? There's more to green giving than just switching to the stuff with the "green" label, however. Here are some pointers for finding the right gifts that make everyone happy.

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Top Gift Giving Tips

  1. Be sure your material gift will get used
    It may be the thought that counts, but a gift that the receiver does not use is simply wasted: not a very nice thought. Give material possessions only if you know the recipient well enough to pick out something they were on the cusp of getting for themselves, or which they really need and will certainly enjoy using.

  2. Give a consumable gift
    Your friend will love your consumable gift twice: once while enjoying the organic teas, fair trade coffee, fresh flowers, fresh or dried fruits and nuts, or other consumable gift; and again when they appreciate that your gift leaves them with no guilty conscience about a gift left unused in the corner of their closet.

  3. Share a piece of yourself
    Avoid material consumption altogether. Instead, offer your services to baby-sit while your friend enjoys a cozy date with their partner, give a gift certificate for a relaxing massage, or a winter's-worth of driveway shoveling (in which case you just save that massage for yourself).

  4. Make a gift of a green service
    If your time is prioritized elsewhere, you can buy a green service. Consider a gift of carbon offsets for a commuting colleague or a Zipcar membership for a friend who more frequently must turn to taxis to supplement their public transport lifestyle.

  5. Make a gift of any service
    You will still reduce material consumption by giving a service of any kind. Especially heart-warming are humanitarian services, such as making a gift of a micro-loan (for example via Kiva).

  6. Give a gift where it is needed on behalf of someone better off
    Make a child smile when they get a card describing the child in another part of the world whose life will be improved by the gift of a llama or a sheep on their behalf (for example via World Gifts or Heifer.

  7. Creative gifts show you care
    The baby sweater you knit yourself is more likely to become a family heirloom, extending the life cycle of the materials in your gift.

  8. Buy a local gift
    A gift made or grown locally can tell a story or share a unique product you have discovered on your own stomping grounds. Your locally-sourced gift will save the environment from the emissions involved in shipping.

  9. Buy high-quality goods
    Sometimes a little extra care or money invested will result in finding a high quality gift that will do justice to the materials consumed in the manufacturing by a long lifespan. Try flea markets or vintage and second-hand shops for quality goods you can afford: then make the gift "new" with a personal touch like a special paint job, or some ribbon around the edges. Your friend will enjoy your perfect high-quality gift much longer!

  10. Think about your packaging
    Use packaging that will not go to waste. Your packaging may be part of the gift itself, such as wrapping the gift in a scarf or enclosing it in a box that can be reused for collecting life's odds and ends. Reusable wrapping, such as a gift bag, will pass on the fun. For family and close friends, consider the Sunday funnies instead of commercial gift wrap.

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Gift Giving: By the Numbers

  • 25 percent: Increase in the trash generated during the holiday season.

  • 86 percent: TreeHugger readers who say their kids have too much stuff.

  • 97 percent: Of restaurant gift certificate receivers who say they would like to receive a restaurant gift certificate again.

  • 83,000,000: Square meters of gift wrap which winds up on the U.K. rubbish heaps after the holiday season.

  • $300 million: Dollars spent in the U.S. on mass market women's bath gift sets.

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Where to Get Green Gifts

Here are just a few suggestions. The rest of the quest for the perfect eco gift is all yours.

Green Living Now
Good Gifts
Better World Books
3R Living
Evo Gear
Ten Thousand Villages
Lite Green
Saul Good Gift Co.
Eco Home
Bloomin' Gift Cards
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Gift Giving: From the Archives

Dig deeper into these articles on giving gifts from the TreeHugger and Planet Green archives.

Check out TreeHugger's Gift Guides, including holiday gift guides for 2007, for 2006 and 2005.

No need to buy when you can make a gift basket for a loved one.

We can also recommend giving the gift of change.

And, when you're done giving (and receiving), be sure to upcycle your gift cards.

A review of gift ideas for Father's Day is a good resource for gifts for fathers, any day.

Gifts for moms may be the trickiest to find; see what TreeHugger suggests.

For the more intimate recipient (or the subject of you wooing) check out TH's Valentine's Guide and some sustainable sexiness.

 Gifts for your dog: the focus in post-recycled content and doggie satisfaction.

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Further Reading on Gift Giving

In addition to TreeHugger and Planet Green, here are some other organizations have put together resources that may be helpful as you continue to green your life.

Decide which carbon offset service suits your needs best using the ecobusinesslinks survey of the prices, offset techniques, and verification methods out there.

Browse Wists to see a wish-list of gift ideas.

GreenLight magazine, billed as "your guide to earth-friendly living", is packed with ideas which could make great gifts.

Green Living Now offers a limited, but carefully screened, line of products in the categories of cleaning cupboard, personal care, water filters, organic food, unique gifts, vitamins & supplements, animal care and baby care.

The Great Green Living Gift Guide by NRDC offers links to a wide variety of planet-friendly gift ideas.

For gifts that do good, click over to Good Gifts.

Pick gifts that ship carbon neutral, thanks to a creative collaboration with

How to Go Green: Gift Giving
Is anything more wonderful than finding the perfect gift for someone, or receiving the present that's just what you needed? How about gift-giving accompanied by the knowledge that your gift is also a gift for the planet? There's more to green giving

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