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GIVING THOUGHTFUL GIFTS
THIS HOLIDAY SEASON

Increasingly I hear people are asking, "How can I give gifts in a way that is environmentally friendly? How can I avoid plastics? How can I avoid bundles of packaging? How can I give really appropriate gifts without creating demand for more "stuff"? Where do I go for ideas?" Well, here are some guidelines for environmentally friendly gift giving.

Gift certificates are a great way to give environmentally responsibly. The theater, the cinema, music concerts, massage, sports events, bus or train pass, restaurants, museums, video stores, shows. Most venues and events will provide certificates. On a similar vein is the gift of a subscription to journals or magazines.

Think about giving your time. The biggest thing parents of young children miss (and I know this) is time to themselves. Any parents with young children would welcome a homemade gift certificate for babysitting, or - if you're really brave - taking older children to stay overnight. Think of your elderly neighbors with that yard they can't quite keep up. Instead of a bought gift, think about offering half a day weeding. It doesn't have to be you doing the weeding, you can pay your local teenagers to weed on your behalf. Who doesn't like to have dinner prepared for them and then the clearing up done afterwards? Those of you who love to cook, why not give the gift of a dinner which you prepare in the recipient's home. Giving your time not only eases burden on the environment but it also builds and reinforces personal bonds in our lives and communities which, in today's world, can all too easily slip away.

For the person who really does have everything, and you can't bring yourself to buy yet another sweater or tie, make donations in their name to their favorite charity. You can mail a card with a note explaining your gift decision.

Many of us do like to give a gift to be unwrapped, or have the excitement of unwrapping something ourselves. There are some good tips for buying products: look for items that contain natural components - wood, organic cotton, fibers which are recyclable or have recycled content, items made from recycled goods. Some non-profit organizations use local artisans who make products from natural and recovered materials. Try looking in the phone book for locations of these organizations and support the local economy directly through shopping there.

My children love making gifts for people, it's so satisfying for them to create something and then have the joy of giving that homemade gift. Encourage children to use household items to make their own gifts instead of heading out to the store.

Shopping trip behavior can have an influence on the environment. Multiple trips, back and forth between different stores and home, produce a lot of carbon dioxide. Try shopping on the internet to get ideas before you set off, so you cut down your number of trips. When shopping for friends and family in other states, use the internet to locate suppliers local to where they live and cut down shipping distances, and your shipping cost.

Packaging is another place you can be kind to the environment. Have children make home made wrapping paper for their gifts. When buying wrapping paper, look for recycled content. Cardboard boxes (except foil-covered boxes), plain, colored, or printed wrapping paper with minimal sticky tape and plain "tissue paper" can all be reused.

If you have to ship packages you can buy biodegradable packing peanuts from most office supply outlets. These peanuts are made from cornstarch and can be reused, but will simply dissolve harmlessly if they end up outside in the rain. Styrofoam peanuts are oil based and, as everyone knows, are very persistent when left in the wind and the rain. If you have a shredder at home you can shred your junk mail and use it as packing material. Shred is easily recycled with scrap paper.

The holidays are also a good time to look at your closets, to work out what you no longer need and donate items to charities. Although people are busy around the holiday season volunteer organizations welcome time and talents that people have to offer. Gifts don't all have to be something that is wrapped.

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Written by: Kate Wills,


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