Green Gifts, Carbon Footprints and All
Buy local, or not? It’s the holidays, right, so anything goes? Not quite. Every product has a carbon footprint, that is, the carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas, released by the burning of fossil fuels used to manufacture and transport it. Some manufacturers are trying to measure and reduce the carbon footprints of a bevy of products, from food to electronics to fashion with the help of new labels being developed by the UK’s Carbon Trust.
When you can, buy locally made goods to give to those who live near you. Deal face to face, smile to smile, be an engaged and integral part of your local economy. Then, if you can’t find what you’re looking for in a local shop, feel free to order online.
Now for the goods.
Culture’s the ticket: No matter where you live, you can give tickets to concerts, plays or services in your recipient’s local. No shipping, no fuel miles. We gave our son and his girlfriend tickets to “Wolves at the Window,” a production of Brits Off Broadway within walking distance of their New York apartment. They not only went, but loved it, and asked for more!
Alternate Ashtanga: Gifts of yoga classes keep on giving, and yoga studios are trending green. In Honolulu, Diamond Head Yoga, founded by surfer Randall Poulson, uses energy efficient LED lighting and recycled hardwood floors. Find a low-impact teacher and venue near someone you love at GreenYoga.org.
“I encourage students to bring their own mats, which cuts down on spreading germs,” says Poulson, and we agree. We’re partial to Think Sport’s thick new PVC and polycarbonate mats. They’re PVC and polycarbonate free, so no phthalates or Bisphenol-A. Same with these other eco mats. Think ecoyopi, or for Pilates, too.
Help your significant other get core strength (and flat abs) with lessons from a certified Pilates instructor. To find a studio near you, go to Pilates Studio Search.
In my case, the slopes of Diamond Head, or Leahi (forehead of a tuna) also house a great Pilates place, Aware Aligned Awake, founded by another surfer, Cristal Mortensen.
Speaking of surfing, it’s chilly, even in Hawaii, when the north wind blows! For the oceangoer on your list, consider a warm-up cap made of a sustainable fiber. An organic cotton cap and tote bag are included when you give a $44 membership in the non-profit Surfrider Foundation, which is dedicated to protecting water quality and conserving natural beaches and waves. Or check out the organic cotton, wool or recycled poly caps by Patagonia.
Speaking of Patagonia, their Footprints Chronicles are a fun way to comparison shop based on the carbon and energy consumed by their products, say, Mongolian cashmere vs. recycled poly fleece. Watch your back:
Electronics, or rather, Computers? Think takeback, nontoxic and read this for what to do.
Tech gadgets: Give Memory: Photos are nice, especially when the albums are stored on tiny flash drives, or memory sticks. I want one for each writing project! Smart power strips are a great way to save energy.
*One of my favorite practical guidebooks for protecting children from unnecessary toxic exposures is now out in paperback. Healthy Child, Healthy World: Creating a Cleaner, Greener, Safer Home, by Christopher Gavigan for HealthyChild.org. It includes advice from witty, down-to-earth pediatrician and author Harvey Karp, and reminiscences from Tobey Maguire, Michelle Obama, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tom Hanks and others.
*Of course, you can’t go wrong with Al Gore’s new book, Our Choice, of which 100% of the profits go to the Alliance for Climate Protection.
*Buy Fred Krupp’s and Miriam Horn’s LastStop Earth from the Environmental Defense Fund’s book store, and help benefit this non-profit.
*The Surfrider Foundation and landscaping expert Douglas Kent collaborated on Ocean Friendly Gardens: A How-To Gardening Guide to Help Restore a Healthy Coast and Ocean. This manual details ways to create water-conserving landscape designs and irrigation, while preventing runoff that deadens our marine environments. Order through Surfrider.
*Budding citizen journalists should read Elizabeth Royte’s Garbage Land and Bottlemania before they ride along to the source of trouble, and, to deepen their analysis of media, her The Tapir’s Morning Bath. See Royte’s blog
Speaking of bottles, make this the season you give everyone on your list a reusable water bottle that’s PVC and BPA-free.
Tote bottles and who knows what in a cute recycled bag from Olive and Myrtle, which also has fresh-looking recycled paper journals, plus traditional toys, and more.
Bicycles: The latest are commute-and-carry haulers, some with buckets. See my article in E. Magazine.
Personal Care: Go gentle on yourself, and support rainforest communities, with
Alba Botanica’s Rainforest Rescue containing Andiroba and Brazil Nut Oil from Forest Stewardship Council-certified forestlands. The Body Shop carries FSC-certified foot files and nail brushes. Eco elegant! For travel, we love l’Occitane’s little tins of pure shea butter, fairly traded, and their certified organic lavender body lotion. For both fairly traded and organic soaps, give Dr. Bronner’s. For plenty more delectable, phthalate and paraben free cosmetics, see my list.
The most sustainable clothing fiber, even greener than organic cotton, is something post-consumer-recycled. And it doesn’t have to be from Goodwill, although their designer wares are as chic as any. Look for local designers who make new designs from old materials, like 1979, whose Made in Hawaii tops and frocks use soft, faded material from vintage men’s aloha shirts. Or Soozou, which makes beach bags and totes from used sails. Timberland’s Earthkeeper line, with those tags giving the carbon footprint of the item, looks pretty irresistible for someone with a weakness for boots.
Jewelry: In an era of conflict diamonds, the mindful consumer will seek out jewelry that’s ethically sourced as well as free of the taint of ecosystems destroyed by arsenic from gold mining. No such problem with Meesah’s earrings and bangles made of repurposed fishing lines or Bakelite fragments! For more ideas see The Green Guide’s jewelry guide.
Edibles: My Dad always says he wants nothing more for Xmas than good health and a package of fresh-baked cookies from Dancing Deer. The latter I can give him. After all, it’s only once a year! For the rest, buy from your local farmers, who will be happy to fill your gift baskets with fresh selections. Find them by entering your zip code at Local Harvest .
The cook will welcome something earthy and authentic, like an unglazed soapstone pot from Vermont, Vermontstonegifts.com, or a terracotta tagine, from tagines.com
Want more simple green living tips? Subscribe to our free monthly e-newsletter at GreenerPenny.com. Follow us at Twitter.com/Greenerpenny and become a fan on GreenerPenny’s Facebook page.
Oh, and you can preorder my book, Do One Green Thing: Saving the Earth through Simple, Everyday Choices, for delivery in March, here.
Happy Holidays, one and all!