During the holiday season, nearly one-fourth of all retail goods fly off store shelves and into America's homes between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Other than opting out of gift giving entirely, and risk being ostracized by friends and family, there are a number of things you can do to green up the process, proving you can be both thoughtful and socially responsible. With a bit of foresight, it is possible to stay in the gift-giving spirit while also showing some love to Mother Earth.
Rather than heading to the mall when a gift-giving occasion presents itself, head to your local artisan's shop instead. Websites like etsy.com include "search local" features that make it easier to find local craftspeople if you are unsure where to shop. Buying local allows you to reduce the environmental toll of fuel used in shipping and manufacture, as well as excessive packaging materials which often involve petroleum-based plastics. In addition to shopping local artisan shops, consider such venues as craft shows, swap meets and flea markets.
Opt for Edibles
Sourcing locally may mean your own kitchen. If you have a crafty cook inside, choose a homemade gift you create yourself. If you are void of any culinary skills, turn to companies that offer the perfect personalized birthday gift basket, complete with gourmet goodies, flowers or spa products. The gift recipient can reuse the gift basket to make their own earth-friendly creation. Dry organic ingredients for cookies, uniquely shaped and colored pastas and organic fruit are some other holiday gift ideas. All can be packaged using earth-friendly materials.
Besides buying locally sourced and handmade gifts, you can also improve the eco-friendliness of what you choose to give by ensuring your gift is made from sustainable materials. That means avoiding petroleum-based materials commonly used in product manufacture, like plastic and polyester, as well as conventional electronics which cause concern over electric and magnetic field (EMF) pollution. Electronics also contain chemicals that are harmful upon disposal. Instead, look for products made of renewable materials like cotton, bamboo, wool and renewable woods. You will also want to avoid toxic paints and varnishes.
Give the Gift of Giving
There are a number of organizations, such as Heifer International, that have gift catalogs allowing you to make a socially responsible gift in someone else's name, such as a flock of ducks for a family in a third world country or the gift of clean water to an impoverished community. These gifts are perfect for those who have everything and help others in need.
Wrapping It Up
To top it off, avoid the store-bought gift wraps and ribbons, and opt for eco-friendly paper wraps instead. You can make your own using recycled paper decorated with non-toxic paints or explore online resources for environmentally-friendly wraps. For example, tree-free wrap and accessories are available from sites like OftheEarth.com.