Dreaming of a "Green" Christmas

While most of us enjoy giving or receiving a thoughtful gift (particularly one that gets us outdoors), that doesn’t have to mean being part of the excessive consumerism that surrounds the holiday season. If you want to give good gifts that are also good for the planet, consider some of the ideas and companies below. There are no “must-haves” or “hottest essentials” here, just some ideas to get you thinking outside of the (big) box.

Donate to Charity

Make a donation to a charity meaningful to the recipient. You can find a variety of environmental groups to support at One Percent for the Planet's site. Or donate to the recipient’s favorite or local charity (just don’t pull a George Costanza and say you donated to The Human Fund).

Combat Climate Change

While I'm wishing for a "green" Christmas environmentally, I don't want a green winter. Help combat climate change by reducing your energy usage and supporting renewable energy.

  • Calculate how many green tags you need to buy to offset your home, event (have a green New Year’s bash or wedding), or travel (carbon-neutral ski trip, anyone?). Then buy Green Tags through the Bonneville Environmental Foundation and wind, solar, and other renewable energy is substituted for traditional power.

  • Reduce your carbon footprint down to zero by buying a TerraPass and fund renewable energy projects such as wind farms, greenhouse gas abatement projects (like landfill capping), and industrial efficiency projects (like the Chicago Climate Exchange).

  • Or buy wind energy credits with a Wind Power Card from Renewable Choice Energy and replace the electricity you use at home with renewable wind energy. Purchase Wind Power Cards at Whole Foods Market or online for $5 (individual; 250 kilowatt hours/month) or $15 (family; 750 kilowatt hours/month).

Spend Time Together Outdoors

Mom was right. One of the most meaningful gifts you can give is the gift of your time. So arrange a picnic hike or snowshoe to the recipient’s favorite vista. Give a skier or rider gift certificates to his favorite mountain. Present tickets to a concert or sporting event.

You also can give the gift of outdoor skills. Take your kid and her best friend camping one weekend. Sign your spouse up for an outdoor education class or trip (Has she always wanted to learn to ice climb? Should he brush up on his avalanche safety skills?). Do the class together and it’s a shared memory for both of you. Check out offerings from organizations like the Sierra Club, which offers Sierra Club Outings gift certificates, and the Appalachian Mountain Club, which offers Memberships in a Bottle.

The ideas are endless and a bonus is that you won’t need to waste paper wrapping these gifts up.

Buy Green Gifts

  • Got a climber on your list? Give a gift subscription to Climbing. In October Climbing became the first vertical publication in the world to switch permanently to 100-percent recycled paper (85 percent post-consumer waste). That’s the highest level of PWC paper used by any outdoor magazine. Their inaugural issue alone saved 201 trees, 14,701 gallons of water, and 61,385 pounds of greenhouse gasses.

  • In case you haven’t heard, Patagonia is committed to making the best products while doing the least amount of harm. They’ve got clothing and outerwear made from organic cotton, organic wool, recycled and recyclable polyester, and other e-fibers. They’re sure to have something for that fly fisherman, surfer, climber, skier, or lounger on your list. You can even take things full circle and recycle your old Capilene underwear through their Common Threads Garment Recycling.

  • Prana continues to increase their use of organic cotton and recycled materials in their climbing, yoga, and lifestyle clothing. Prana also offsets 100 percent of the electricity consumption of its headquarters, 250 of its retailers, and all residences of its full-time employees through renewable energy certificates.

  • Teko’s tagline (Best Socks on the Planet, Best Sock for the Planet.) is one I actually believe. This company is sincerely committed to sustainable, environmentally-friendly products: socks made from ecomerino wool, Ingeo (corn-based), ecopoly recycled polyester, and organic cotton, using non-toxic dyes. They offset 100 percent of their electricity with wind energy credits and completed their own biodiversity plan for Downie-Dungrove Farm in Tasmania, which supplies their wool.

  • Technical clothing also is being made from natural materials like coconuts (Cocona), bamboo, soy, and corn (Ingeo). Fox River offers Ingeo socks. As of spring 2007 brands using Cocona will include Cannondale (among the first, and one of Time magazine’s “most amazing inventions”), Marmot, Royal Robbins, Sierra Designs, and Sporthill.

  • Mion, which has an ecometrics label showing environmental impact for each pair of its shoes, offsets 100 percent of the energy used in manufacturing its shoes. Its European distribution center is fueled 100 percent with on-site wind turbines and solar panels, and its U.S. distribution center receives 60 percent of its power from on-site solar panels. Mion's company goal is to be carbon neutral.

  • When you replace old clothing or gear, don’t send it to the landfill. Recycle your old clothing or gear by donating it to charity or a friend, or selling it to someone else. You can buy or sell used gear through Trailspace’s Classifieds, eBay, or GearTrade.

Stocking Stuffers

If you’re looking for some stocking stuffers, here are a few more ideas:

  • Cliff Bar offers a variety of tasty organic bars for men, women, and kids and is committed to people's health and the environment.

  • Newman’s Own makes delicious food like salsa and pasta sauce, and Newman's Own Organics makes organic cookies, coffee, chocolate bars, and dried fruit you can take along on your next backpacking trip. All profits and royalties go to educational and charitable purposes.

  • Richard Louv’s thought-provoking Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder is a highly-recommended read.

  • Gift certificates are always handy when you don't know what someone wants or needs. You can buy them from your favorite outdoor retailers, like Backcountry, Moosejaw, Altrec, and REI, or from your local outdoor retailer.

  • Use Granite Gear’s Air Grocery Bag to carry your shopping in. It’s an ultralight Cordura sil-nylon bag that stuffs so small it works as a key fob, so you can always have it on hand.

These are just a few holiday gift ideas. Do you have a favorite green gift to give? Please share it with us.

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