Top Ten Tips For Greener Gifting and Celebrating this Holiday Season

Do crowded malls, tedious travel and impersonal gifts take the fun out of your holidays? Give yourself—and the planet—a break this season by choosing from these 10 tips:
  • Buy Local – Check your local crafts people and Farmer’s Markets for gift ideas, such as herb-flavored hand-pressed olive oils, soaps, monthly vegetable box subscriptions, handmade clothes,  jewelry or photography. This supports the local farmers and craftsmen, as well as reducing vehicle trips to crowded malls and shopping centers. In this area we have a wealth of such options. One of my favorites is open until 3 pm on Christmas Eve: The Potters’ Studio is a Berkeley collective representing some wonderfully talented folks!
  • Give consumable giftsgiftcertificate such as candles, note cards or Fair Trade coffee, teas or chocolates. This supports the economies of countries struggling to be green themselves. Gift cards to The Cheese Board are always a hit–follow the link and you’re on your way!
  • Give BART or other transit agency tickets to encourage public transportation instead of driving.
  • Use LED   (Light-emitting diode) lights to decorate. These use 90% LESS energy than standard incandescent mini lights, and are now widely, and have become much more affordable the past couple of years. Check out some of my favorite LED options here. The Restoration Hardware Starry Lights also come in a shorter 7′ strand that would be fun to wear–the copper strand emits no heat. And consider giving energy-efficient lighting as gifts.
  • Give environmentally-friendly gifts such as canvas bags, stainless steel travel mugs or water bottles, or garden tools.
  • Invite friends over for a home-cooked meal as a gift, especially if they are elderly or have difficulty cooking for themselves.
  • Donate money to a charity the recipient cares about, instead of buying something you aren’t sure they’ll want.
  • Wrap gifts in old maps, comic pages, or use re-usable gift bags or baskets. Use reusable ribbons and bows, or decorate with pine cones, holly or other natural materials. I’ll be wrapping gifts this year in scraps of wonderful wallpapers. My husband’s favorite is wrapping in relevant New Yorker cartoons. You can also make your own gift tags using last year’s holiday cards or other sturdy paper.
  • Donate unwanted gifts, or last year’s gifts the kids have outgrown, to charitable organizations.
  • Pretend you’re a tourist visiting your own town. Visit a museum or a regional park and take in the local sites. During the holidays, take the time to enjoy what’s right in your own backyard! Suggestions include the Berkeley Rose Garden or waterfront parks, a relaxing train trip to Historic Sacramento along the bay’s waterfront, or a visit to the Oakland Museum of California by BART. Or even a splurge at a local spa!

Americans throw away an estimated 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day than at other times of the year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Partners for Environmental Progress. The number of long distance trips (50 miles or more each way) also increases by 54% around the holidays, making it the most energy-intensive time of the year and generating the most greenhouse gases of any 5-week period of the year.

Even if you only follow a few of these tips, it will give Mother Earth a small holiday gift!

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