Sunday, November 21, 2010

Top 10 Green Holiday Gift and Decorating Ideas

Simplify the Holidays: Less Waste, Less Stress, Fewer Things, More Time

1. Make the season bright--and energy efficient--with Light Efficient Diode (LED) lights, like these holiday LED strings by Martha Stewart at Home Depot. Give LED lightbulbs, too, for year-round use: They're 25x more efficient than incandescent bulbs, mercury-free, and last 10x longer than compact fluorescents (CFLs).

2. Make D.I.Y. ornaments by reusing and recycling materials like shredded paper and these bottle caps, which aren't recycled by municipalities although the containers, if made of #1, #2 or #5, are. Photo by Natalie McKinney, Kokua Hawaii Foundation.

3. Give locally grown and/or organic, heirloom food. Baskets of fresh farmers' market produce or dried fruit and nuts, cheese platters, gift boxes of dried pasta, bottled pesto and olive oil, homebaked treats, you name it, won't go to waste! Top it off with organic, fairly traded chocolate.

You can send organic whole foods and prepared meals from Diamond Organics ( A great source of tasty organic meat is, or you can find a local purveyor of organic or grass-fed meats by typing in your zip code at Indulge in hand-crafted American artisanal cheeses made from the milk of grass-fed cows, sheep and goats, from, and more.

The holidays, when we observe traditions, are an ideal time to sample heirloom foods that keep gene pools diverse and healthy. Treat your family to the unique taste of a free-Range heritage turkey or pampered pig; see for a state-by-state listing of farmers who raise native breeds of fowl, as well as special regional vegetables, fruits and meats.

Get a sustainable taste of the wild-- Alaska salmon, that is--free of toxins and not overfished. It’s not in season fresh right now, so buy it smoked from or

Organic coffee is being produced from Sumatra to Colombia to Hawaii, USA. When it’s also shade-grown, beneath a forest canopy that provides a home to migratory songbirds, and is produced by farmer cooperatives under fair trade standards, coffee is one of the most well-rounded green choices you can find. Meeting all three standards are Batdorf & Bronson ( and Grounds for Change (

4. Give time and togetherness.
Among its top 12 ways to simplify the holidays, Kokua Hawaii Foundation
suggests giving redeemable "service certificates" for tasks you or a child can perform, such as: good for one car wash, one homemade meal. We might add an hour's worth working in the garden, helping with shopping and carrying groceries, sweeping the front steps.

5. Buy a live local tree, and plant it after the holidays in your yard, city park or botanical garden. You'll find a place!

6. Give a plastics and (mostly) paper-free party. My friend Sarah rents wineglasses, for example. It’s so nice having real glass instead of plastic, which affects the taste of the wine. I just bought a lot of vintage wine glasses from a neighbor's yard sale where I ran into Cristal. Use lightweight, renewablebamboo plates and bowls, or Recycline’s colorful dinnerware made of recycled milk jugs. Organic cotton and hemp or secondhand cloth napkins and dishcloths /can work even in large parties, but for best, post-consumer recycled paper goods, click here..

7. Choose gifts that are minimally packaged, or not at all. Culture’s the ticket: No matter where you live, you can give tickets to theatre, concerts, art exhibits, aquariums and natural history museumsl or services, such as yoga or dance classes, piano, drawing or pottery lessons, in your recipient’s locale. No shipping, no fuel miles.

8. Good green drinks. Give and toast with certified organic wine,
gin, vodka and rum from,and beers, including several varieties from Non-alcoholic options include R.W. Knudsen’s organic grape (choose red for resveratrol), apple and orange carrot juice from

9. Treat a hard-cooking loved one to a truly special night out at a restaurant that uses locally produced and organic foods. Search at Chefs Collaborative.

10. Buy local whenever possible. It's the strongest and most rewarding connection you can make. Search for sustainably produced goods made and sold in your vicinity in the Organic Consumers Association Buying Guide, and Green America's(formerly Co-op America) National Green Pages.

During the holidays and beyond: Visit loved ones. You don’t have to entertain them, just be yourself and listen. Even if you have to fly a long distance and pay to offset your carbon emissions and assuage your conscience, it’s totally worth it.

Want more simple green living tips? Subscribe to our free monthly e-newsletter at Follow us at and on GreenerPenny’s Facebook page.

See more tips, and make a pledge to simplify your holidays at Kanu Hawaii(they have a cool calculating widget to show how many trees and how much carbon you've saved) and Center for a New American Dream, whose 2009 holiday tips pamphlet is on their website now.

No comments: