Holiday Gift Guide: Green Gifts for Every Eco-lifestyle

BlogHer Original Post

This is the year to stop giving crappy gifts -- those weird plasticky objects that are barely functional and easily breakable. Whether you need targeted tips for eco-friendlier gift shopping or broad ideas for making the gift-giving experience more meaningful this season, first read fellow Blogher CE Beth Terry's green gifting guidelines. But if you already know the basics of eco-friendly gifting -- and now need some specific gift ideas -- consider this shortlist!

Why's my list so short? I picked only the gifts that'll give you the most eco-bang for your buck. All of my picks do double duty -- both as a real, tangible gift your giftee will love, and as a meaningful donation to an environmental nonprofit that's done great work in 2010.

Because unbeknownst to many, the holidays are the best time to donate to environmental nonprofits -- if you want a little, or really, a lot, in return for your investment. In fact, many of the "donations" come with gifts that are often worth more than the sum you donated! Get the green cookbooks, fashions, one-of-a-kind art pieces, and edible delights you want -- oh, I mean, your friends and family want -- with the feel-good knowledge that all the money you spent went to make for a better environment in 2011.

For the art lover: "Beach Karma" eco-paintings. Miniaturists, Lilliputians, and fans of the photography in "Synecdoche, New York" and "Tiny Furniture" will especially love these art pieces by artist Elizabeth Saveri, who's painted tiny beach and ocean scenes on recycled plastic bag ties!

"By painting a beach-scape on each tie, I am trying to point to the omnipresence of these small plastic trash objects that pollute our oceans and affect our experience of the beach." That's how Elizabeth describes her work, which were commissioned by L.A. area environmental nonprofit Heal the Bay. Each unique piece of art costs $150 -- with all proceeds going directly to Heal the Bay’s work keeping the Santa Monica Bay clean and healthy.

For the fair trade fashionista: An eco-friendly scarf plus fair trade microloan. Make cotton organic -- and wear the fashionable result too. That's what the Hoop Holiday Bundle from fair trade microloan marketplace lets you do. For $45, you'll get a gift set -- a $20 microloan to organic cotton farmers in Peru you can present to your giftee as a custom loan certificate -- along with an organic cotton and silk scarf from Indigenous designs that your giftee can wear while she waits for her loan to be repaid.

Hoop is like Kiva -- except with a direct tie to fair trade businesses that basically lets you also buy and enjoy the very eco-friendly and fair trade products you helped make reality. Here's how FastCompany describes the process:

The Hoop takes a cut of all products sold on the site, and gets promotional fees from partnering brands to keep our loans at 0% interest. Because the suppliers are established coops, there is less risk of loan defaults. Ultimately, The Hoop aims to change the producer-consumer paradigm to something a lot more connected.

Now's a good time to invest in The Hoop.

For the organic foodie: A cookbook plus eco-foodie pack. I know I advocate organic cooking, green living -- and of course BYO bagging, bottling, chopsticking, and more. But buying up those green living books, eco-cookbooks, and all those BYOables separately can cost you a good chunk of change. That's why it makes sense just to get them all in one go from Environmental Working Group -- an eco-health nonprofit that's collected the best and the greenest products out there into one handy pack.

That pack can be yours for a $125 donation -- which really goes a long way. First of all, the pack includes a copy of "The Earthbound Cook," a great organic cookbook-meets-green living guide I've raved about on my personal blog. In addition to that, you'll get all the basic eco-tools to shop and live green. Kleen Kanteen reusable bottle? Of course. Chico reusable tote? Yes -- and a couple Ecobags produce bags too! And say bye bye to those overpriced plastic packs of herbs too by planting the Seeds of Change organic seeds and growing your own -- then watch them sprout while nibbling on Organic chocolate and other eco-friendly yummies you bought with the $20+ in coupons included in your pack.

For the beach lover: Winter beach cleanup-wear from Surfrider. Got a friend like Sara Bayles, who likes to do beach cleanups? Get her a membership to beach-friendly environmental nonprofit Surfrider Foundation and she'll get an outfit -- well, from the waist up -- to keep her warm for her outdoor do-gooder activities. The $44 membership gets you a long-sleeved organic cotton T-shirt, an organic cotton beanie to keep the ears warm, plus a reusable tote bag to tote in beach picnic snacks -- and tote out beach trash.

I'll be honest -- I don't find the shirt and hat Surfrider's giving away particularly fashion forward -- they seem rather plain in the photo. But Surfrider has also recently teamed up with Swell to create an ocean-friendly store with much cuter items ranging from eco-friendly flip flops to cute T-shirts to water testing kits. Buying those items aren't a direct donation to Surfrider and won't get you a membership with its subscription to "Making Waves" -- but some of the proceeds will benefit the ocean-friendly nonprofit while giving you cute beach fashions to wear.

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BlogHer Contributing Editor Siel also blogs at greenLAgirl.com.

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