This is the fifth of five articles in our 2013 Holiday Shopping series. Keep looking for these posts to learn how to make gift shopping easier on yourself and the environment!
By this time of year, I’m usually fresh out of gift ideas and running out of time, too — unless I want to brave the crowds at the mall or spend extra on expedited shipping, neither of which are very eco-friendly ideas.
So I’ve been stockpiling ideas for last-minute gifts that will be appreciated by just about anyone. Most of these can be purchased online or picked up nearby (Don’t worry, no malls!).
Donations: For the person who has just about everything, make a contribution in their name to a meaningful cause. Fundraiser Insight has a great list of environmental organizations that use their donations wisely, or take a look at our list of environmental charities with different green focuses. If you want to keep your contribution closer to home (or to the home of the recipient), consider making a donation to a local cause, such as a nature conservancy, a neighborhood farmer’s market, or a group that supports alternative means of transportation, such as a bicycling advocacy group.
Memberships: One of my favorite gifts to give (and to receive!) is an annual membership to a local attraction, such as a museum, botanic gardens, an aquarium, or state park. It’s a great green gift in that there’s no stuff involved, just a wallet card. And if you pick an organization that helps preserve or protect natural resources, such as a botanic garden or a state or national park, the organization will be using the money from the membership to help accomplish its good work. It’s a gift that truly keeps on giving all year long, and the recipient will think of you ever time he or she visits the attraction.
Locally Made Goodies: Shop at your favorite small, independent store for unique gifts that you won’t find at the mall. For someone who is new to town (or, if you can get to the post office in time, to send to a faraway family member to give them a taste of your home), you can usually find interesting locally made jewelry or accessories, photos or paintings of well-known area landmarks, or foods made with regional ingredients. It makes sense to support small, local businesses that help preserve the diverse feel of a city or town and are often more community-spirited than a national chain.
Gift Certificates: Who doesn’t love a gift certificate to their favorite store? Sure, it’s not the most creative idea, but it’s one that is always welcome since the recipient can use it to get just what he or she wants or needs! Order it on the retailer’s website and have it emailed right to the recipient, which would mean that you’re not using gas for a trip to the store or even using paper to print the gift. If you’re not sure what stores they like, consider an iCard gift card, which can be redeemed at a number of different merchants.
Digital Subscriptions: Put a twist on gifting a magazine subscription and choose the greener option: a digital subscription that can be enjoyed on a computer or mobile device. There’s no shipping, paper, or other resources involved. For readers, I like a subscription to NextIssue. For a monthly fee, it gives unlimited access to more than 100 magazines which can be read on certain mobile devices or PCs. For music lovers, try a premium subscription to a music service like Spotify, Pandora or Rhapsody.
Eco-Friendly Treats: For a family or group of co-workers, nothing beats a good old-fashioned gift basket. Keep it green by focusing on environmentally responsible products and brands. Most well-stocked supermarkets now have a “natural” section where these products can be found, or you can head to Whole Foods, your local co-op, or natural foods store. Consider fair-trade chocolate, organic crackers, locally made cheese, shade-grown coffee, and responsibly packaged teas. Be sure to package everything in a reusable container, such as a storage crate or a colander, and forgo the cellophane wrapper that will just get thrown away.