I remember the days when gifts of fancy clothes and décor items were hotly anticipated in our home. Seems like forever ago. Then we moved to ‘the country’, and my personal Christmas gift list became unrecognizable from my previously very urban sensibilities. Who would have thought I’d be interested in the best eco-friendly gifts?
Since moving onto our 6 acres, my gift list has gone from high end clothing and spa gift certificates to Ecofans, wood carving kits, and Le Creuset cookware. This year I’ve got my eye on a hand-powered water pump. Yup, a non-electric water pump.
Luxurious? Hardly (except maybe the Le Creuset).
Not to mention none of it will end up in the landfill in 6 months.
But what about my list for others? Does ‘green’ giving mean granola-crunchy, boring, guilt-inducing gifts? Absolutely not. So much has changed in the ‘green gift’ realm the last few years – they can be just as fun as the toxic, wasteful kind – even more so, because you can feel good giving them. They can be practical, useful, and well loved. And when they’re well chosen and reflect the lucky person receiving the gift, they can change lives.
The Best Eco-Friendly Gift Giving Criteria
The environmental impact of my gift-giving has been top of mind for decades. In the late 1980s, when some of the big environmental news started going mainstream, I started freaking out over what we were collectively doing to the planet. It was a rough phase (and I wasn’t much fun to be around, truth be told). But I no longer fret about it – at least not the gift giving part. Over the years, I’ve created a mental checklist for any gifts I purchase, not only at Christmas time, but throughout the year. It looks something like this:
- Is the gift ‘fair trade’?
- Is it made from natural, organic, or recycled materials?
- If it’s not made from natural materials, is it made with recyclability in mind?
- If it’s made from natural materials, is it finished with safe, non-toxic finishes (i.e., beeswax and/or naturally pigmented, non-oil-based paints)?
- Is it made or supplied locally?
- Is it recyclable in my community?
- Is it of heirloom quality? Will it last?
- Is it a gift of service that isn’t a ‘thing’ that will be thrown away eventually?
- Is the gift something the person will use a lot?
- Is the gift something the person will LOVE?
Obviously, some of these cancel others out (i.e., a Fair Trade gift likely won’t be made locally, but both are helpful to keep in mind). And while the mental checklist is long, it does become second nature. So where do you find things that fit the checklist? Not at your local department store (at least, not normally). You need to buy from folks who have done the research for you.
Where to Buy Green Gifts
In addition to Green Child Magazine’s holiday gift guide, here are a few favorites. For anyone on your list who wants to be more self sufficient, use less electricity and lessen their impact:
- Lehman’s – Lehman’s started as a tiny hardware store employing 3 members of one family and is now the world’s largest purveyor of historical technology. They ship old-fashioned, non-electric merchandise all over the world to a diverse customer base of missionaries and doctors working in developing countries, homesteaders and environmentalists living in remote areas, people with unreliable electricity living on islands and mountains, second home owners, hunters, fishers and cabin dwellers, the ‘chronically nostalgic,’ and even Hollywood set designers looking for historically accurate period pieces. The owner’s goal was, and still is, to provide authentic, historical products to those seeking a simpler life. A candy store for anyone wanting to reduce their reliance on electric appliances! I’ve purchased a number of items from Lehman’s and have always been really happy with the customer service. For some nostalgic fun, check out the non-electric lighting options, hand cranked items, and non-powered laundry appliances. If you’re at all interested in being even a little more self-sufficient, be warned – you could spend hours poking around this website.
- Real Goods – I remember the ‘old’ Real Goods catalog, which returned in the 1990s after disappearing during the excesses of the 1980s. This is the granddaddy (or grandmommy!) of all ‘green gifts’ catalogs. EVERYTHING you could imagine for the ‘green’ home – from recycled door mats (in use at our cold storage door) and non-electric woodstove fans (currently whirring away on top of our woodstove), to composting toilets, tankless water heaters, and decor items, it’s all there. Maybe not the most romantic Christmas gift, but there’s nothing romantic about huge electric and water bills.
- Etsy – Etsy is a treasure trove of hand-made eco-gift items that will fit absolutely anyone on your gift list. Gorgeous clothing, stunning, one-of-a-kind jewellery, decor items and whimsical bits and pieces that might be useless, but would look awesome in your loved one’s home! You’ll find a large percentage of the items on Etsy are ‘green’ – recycled materials, natural materials, hand made in North America… Plan to spend at least an hour (or two or three) looking around!
- Rawganique – Organic cotton and hemp clothing and gorgeous organic home decor, bedding and linens. I’ve ordered from Rawganique many, many times and love their products and customer service.
A few of our favourite sources for the young ones on your list:
- Natural Pod – Located in Vancouver, British Columbia, Natural Pod has a lovely inventory or gorgeous children’s toys, craft items and games, as well as larger furniture items. Lovely owners who stand behind their products – natural materials, safe finishes, and lots of ‘made in North America’ items. naturalpod.com
- Bella Luna Toys – Bella Luna Toys is a beautiful place to purchase quality, natural-material gifts for the children on your list. The toys are inspired by Waldorf education, and invite open-ended play that nurtures a child’s imagination. Bella Luna is “committed to offering unique natural toys and products for children and families that are safe, healthy and encourage imaginative play. You will find no battery-operated or plastic toys here, the kind that will be played with for a short time before ending up in a landfill.”
- A Toy Garden – A Toy Garden is another lovely source of natural children’s toys.
- Family Pastimes – Family Pastimes designs and manufactures cooperative games (all made in Canada).
- Organic/natural fibre kids clothing from any of the stores featured at Green Child Magazine.
Some other ideas for the best eco-friendly gifts:
- Spa gift certificates
- Subscriptions to the local gym, nature conservation group or favourite magazine
- Knitting or crafting lessons
- Music or dance classes
- Concert tickets
- A weekend away at a fancy B&B
- Get a blog built for someone with a gift to share with the world
- Use your imagination!
- Best Eco-Friendly Gifts for A Modern Homesteading Christmas - November 24, 2014
- Raising Kids in the Country - July 9, 2012