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Published on December 16th, 2008 | by Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

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Five Green Holiday Gifts that Keep on Giving

Human hands return mice to natureThis post was originally published at Intent.com on Monday, December 15, 2008.

The winter holidays are almost upon us, and whether you’re celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or the holiday(s) of another tradition, you may still be stumped for gifts to give this year… especially gifts that fit your own (and the recipients’) values.

For the past few years, I’ve moved away from buying “stuff” as much as possible, and focused on giving the gift of giving (say that three times fast!). That is, I look for gifts that contribute to larger causes. After writing about ‘TisBest gift cards a couple of weeks ago, I started brainstorming on other good “gifts that keep on giving” for the “treehugger” on your list.

  • Adopt an Animal: This has become my mainstay for my neice and nephews.  We don’t get them a pet; rather, we make a donation to the Missouri Humane Society’s Longmeadow Rescue Ranch “Barn Buddy” program. You can check with your local Humane Society or ASPCA chapter for similar programs. If wildlife is more your thing, Defenders of Wildlife has “adoption” gifts featuring wolves, penuins, polar bears, and other animals.
  • Plant a Tree: You can do this on your own, or make a contribution: both the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Nature Conservancy have donation programs that involve tree-planting. Or, for the bibilophiles on your list, for-profit company Eco-Libris sells “book offsets”: they’ll plant a tree for each book you choose to “offset.”
  • Offset Emissions: Give the gift of carbon neutrality by purchasing carbon offsets. Some of the most well-known and respected vendors of offsets are Terrapass, Native Energy, and Carbonfund.org. Regardless of the company from which you purchase offsets, make sure that they’re certified by a third party, such a Green-e.
  • Give Green Energy: Sure, you could buy a loved one a solar system or wind turbine, but that’s probably well beyond most of our budgets. Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs… also known as “green tags”) confer the environmental benefits of green energy without having to invest in the equipment. Green-e also certifies REC dealers, including Renewable Choice Energy, the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, and Maine Interfaith Power and Light.
  • Give a Membership: Finally, for family and friends that might like the gift of involvement, why not buy them a gift membership in an environmental organization such as The Sierra Club, Co-op America (Green America as of 1/9/09), or the National Audubon Society.

We can (and should) forgo holiday-related consumerism as much as possible, but that doesn’t mean we should abandon the spirit of giving associated with our various traditions. If you have other ideas for green gifts that keep on giving, I’d love to hear about them.

Disclosure: I do have relationships with many of the organizations and companies listed above, but offer them only as examples… I’m receiving nothing for listing them in this post.

Image credit: angela7dreams at Flickr under a Creative Commons license



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About the Author

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg is the founder and editor of sustainablog. You can keep up with all of his writing at Facebook, and at



  • Amy Southerland

    I also think small but thoughtful “green” gifts can give the satisfaction of giving something tangible while encouraging people to support sustainable living. E.g., Chico or Reisenthal shoppping bags are *so* handy and great stocking stuffers, or as part of a”go green” gift basket — along with a package of compact fluorescent light bulbs to replace 5 incandescent bulbs in their home; weather stripping; guide to green retailers (online or local); and maybe a bottle of organic wine for good measure. A lot of people want to do the right thing but just need a nudge in the right direction.

  • http://sustainablog.org Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

    Amy– I agree. And I have no problem with giving tangible gifts (will do it myself this year, as I do every year)… I have a problem with the idea that we have to buy more stuff to do right by people during the holidays…

  • http://www.yahoo.com Bobby B.

    I am sending eco-friendly Christmas cards to all my friends and family this year. It’s completely carbon neutral; no paper, no postage, no transportation, no electricity (no e-cards), and no wastes. In fact, you have already received yours. If you doubt it, just sit down and PRETEND that you’re reading a heart-felt message from your favorite skeptic. ;-)

    MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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