Monday, November 23, 2009

Keeping it green with gift giving

As the holidays approach, I've been focusing on how to have a greener Christmas. From what to buy to how to wrap, I'll be sharing some of my ideas, and those of others, with you over the next couple of weeks.

On Sunday I taught an adult Sunday School class on this very subject. The discussions were enlightening and some of the ideas are worth noting. My lesson started off with some wonderful quotes from Christian leaders about the environment (including the one I posted yesterday by Billy Graham) and then we moved on to discussing how we can all have a more sustainable Christmas. Our first topic was Green Shopping. Below are some of the ideas shared in the class:
  • Give gifts of service
Examples included giving handmade gift certificates for babysitting, making a meal, doing someone's grocery shopping or laundry, washing someone's car, etc.

I told the story of one of my favorite Mother's Days. I was away for the day and when I returned, two of my daughters (Bethany and Jess) and one of my sons-in-law (Tom) bought the groceries and prepared a wonderful meal, served it on the patio and then cleaned everything up. Marvelous. A day I will always remember. If they decided to do that for me yearly rather than buying me presents, I'd be thrilled.
  • Give gifts of shared experiences
Spending time with someone can be the greatest gift of all. Why not buy theater or concert tickets as presents and make sure you're the one accompanying the recipient to the event.

Plan a weekend getaway and surprise a friend or family member with a mini-vacation. I've been best friends with Dawn since we started kindergarten and in a couple of years we'll be celebrating our Golden Anniversary. I feel especially blessed to have stayed close throughout nearly five decades, despite the fact we live nearly 250 miles away from each other. Last week we decided we would go on a trip together to celebrate in 2012. This gift we're giving each other is something we're both looking forward to.
  • Give gifts with a history and/or sentimental value
Put together a photo album. Give away an heirloom. Make sure you share a memory or the value of the item to you personally. While you may not be able to put a price tag on it, when you give a way something that is close to your heart, the gift is, well....priceless.
  • Give consumable gifts
So many of us have too many things already. Not that it's not nice to occasionally add a piece to a collection we have, or to be given a new item of clothing or an accessory, but don't you appreciate it when you get a delicious plate of cookies or a bottle of your favorite wine? A pound or two of fair trade coffee is a perfect gift for the java lover on your gift list.

I consider gifts that will be used up to fit in this category as well, such as flowers, candles, bath products, body lotions, etc. If these are the types of gifts you like to give, look for green options, which can be found in stores like Aveda.

One of the women in my class said she used to cut branches of evergreens and make wreaths and centerpieces to give away. What an excellent idea which I'm sure was well-received!

Another woman in the group told of how one year she took decorative boxes, filled them with birdseed and then buried money in the seed. What fun the kids had trying to find their 'buried treasure!' Of course, the birds benefited from the gifts as well.
  • Give live gifts 
Now I'm certainly not advocating running out and adopting a puppy for your grandson. This is generally not a good idea. Never give a pet as a gift to an unsuspecting recipient!

However, a live plant can be a good choice. Ask your local nursery expert which plants are easy to care for and find out the benefits of the plant you choose. For example, is it a plant that absorbs formaldehyde? That would be perfect for a new office building setting, where the air quality can actually be hazardous. Give the gift of a healthier workday with toxin-eating plants.
  • Give used gifts
This used to be taboo, but with the higher quality of goods in many resale shops now, you can find some fantastic deals on items you could normally not afford to buy new. Of course, there are things you want to steer clear of, such as upholstered furniture, throw pillows, certain clothing items, etc., but occasionally you'll stumble upon an item that is part of a collection your sister has, or a plate or bowl from your mother-in-law's China pattern. You just never know what you'll find that will actually thrill the recipient more than anything you would buy from a regular retail store. Plus, many times you'll find brand new gifts at places like Goodwill, which, if you've been following my blog, you already know I'm a huge fan of. If you know something is valued at $25 and you pick it up for $4.99, who's going to know the difference? Besides, these gifts come at no cost to the environment, which should make your eco-minded friends and family members especially happy!
  • Give gifts that are battery-free
You can read all about my thoughts on batteries on my blog post from September 14, 2009.
  • Give homemade gifts
Back in the days when being a stay-at-home mom was the norm rather than the exception, giving homemade gifts was a common occurrence. Sadly, those days seem to be fading rather quickly. But for those of you who have the time, hand-sewn, knit or embroidered gifts carry a lot of meaning with them. Hand painted furniture or knick knacks, homemade jewelry, etc. are especially appreciated when its obvious much love and thought went into the making of the gift.
  • Give charitable gifts in the recipient's name, or buy gifts from charities
Check out the gift catalogs at or There are many more organizations that sell merchandise, often made by people in third world countries, or allow you to buy something, such as a goat for milk, for an underprivileged family. Giving a life-sustaining gift in someone else's name is a wonderful way to celebrate Christmas and its meaning will carry on far beyond a collection of DVDs or a new set of potholders.

These are just some ideas for greener giving this year. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comment section of this posting. I'll have more ideas for celebrating a sustainable Christmas in the days to come. Thanks for reading!

Keeping it green,


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