Jon’s Green Holiday Gift Guide – 2012

We are now entering the crazy time between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  When Black Friday hits, millions of Americans will go nuts buying things as gifts.  Hopefully more shoppers will think about the joy of giving and less about buying stuff.  As you go out or online to do your holiday shopping, please keep the planet in mind and be as eco-friendly as you can in your giving.

Before going to the store or online, keep the following three principals in mind:

  • Shop Local – support local artisans and economy and avoid embedded energy in shipping and packaging
  • Buy Green – recycled, natural, recyclable and practical
  • Durable or Consumable so it doesn’t just end up as trash

Here’s my green gift guide for 2012:

1. LED Light bulb

Philips EnduraLED 10w lamp
(60W equivalent)

Give the gift of light, very efficient light.  LED bulbs (aka lamps) have come a long way in the past year.  I highly recommend the Philips EnduraLED bulbs for their flexibility, light quality and energy efficiency.  Instead of giving a gift that keeps on giving, an LED bulb is the gift that keeps on saving.  LED bulbs are 85% more efficient than incandescent bulbs and more durable and long lasting than compact fluorescent lights (CFLs).

If this seems like an odd gift, consider giving LED light bulbs to people with children to use in their children’s rooms.  Alicia loves that the table lamp in our toddler’s room is LED because the bulb is pretty much unbreakable.  One day after a particularly bad naptime she came into the room to find the lamp on, lying across our sleeping son.  An incandescent or CFL bulb would have either shattered, leaving glass and possibly mercury all over, or would be very hot, possibly burning the child.  The LED light was neither hot nor broken, just in a funny position.

2. Cloth Napkins

Homemade Cloth Napkins

Go fun and/or practical – Cloth napkins are a great gift in that they can replace disposable paper napkins saving trees and they are easy to make with some basic sewing skills.  If you buy them, be sure to get natural or organic cloth napkins.  Have fun with cloth napkins by getting some with their favorite team or characters.

3. Rechargeable Batteries (& Charger)

If there are kids involved in your holidays, inevitably there will be some presents that require batteries.  You can save money and avoid waste by using rechargeable batteries.  My favorite brand of rechargeable batteries are are Sanyo eneloop.  We use them in everything from Xbox controllers, to Leapsters to LED flashlights and everything in between. You can also get spacers that turn your standard AA rechargable batteries into C or D-Cell Rechargeable Batteries.

4. Consumables like Wine and Chocolate

bars of wrapped Taza chocolate, local, small batch, direct sourced chocolate
Small batch, direct source awesomeness!
Taza Chocolate

Most of us do not need more stuff, so give something that can be enjoyed, but won’t take up any space.  A nice bottle of organic wine or some tasty organic stone-ground chocolate can warm up any holiday.  My favorite chocolate is a local creation that is available all over the US now:  Taza Chocolate .  For a wider selection of fair-trade and vegan chocolates, check out our Review of  For her last birthday, Alicia was thrilled to get a bottle of “Earth” wine!

5. Handmade cards

Instead of buying that name brand card this season, make your own or buy some handmade cards.  While you might consider an electronic card or letter to go out to the masses, there is something special about receiving a real card.  Some special people who in your life would really appreciate getting a card they can hold, like grandparents, an elderly aunt or a distant best friend.  If you’re going to send paper, consider buying handmade cards. Our friend Sarah has an Etsy store where she sells hand painted holiday and custom cards.  You can also consider making your own with bits and pieces around the house or perhaps repurpose some of your children’s art projects.

6. Kill-a-watt meter

Kill-a-watt energy meter

A Kill-a-watt meter is an easy to use tool and is especially helpful for those friends and family getting started on saving electricity around the house or apartment.  I highly recommend it as the starting tool for any energy savings toolbox.

For those unfamiliar with a kill-a-watt meter, it is a nifty device used to measure how much electricity various appliances and other plug-in devices use. We used one to determine that our TV wasn’t using very much power when turned off, but our cable box was using a lot! Here are instructions for using one effectively. If you do give someone a kill-a-watt, print out the blog post and give it to them with their gift (double-sided of course).

7. Photobook/calendar

We are trying to move away from consumerism and material things, therefore giving people stuff that will eventually end up in a landfill or stuffed away in the attic does not fit well with our values.  However, not all of our family shares our same values and they like to receive tangible gifts.  One thing that has worked well for all of us is creating and giving them a photo-calendar.  Most people really do like to have a calendar on the wall and putting personal pictures on it is a great personalization.
With the various options online, you can create a great gift that includes pictures of the kids and other special people. (You can get a 20% rebate from ebates at Snapfish)

8. Local handmade scarf, sweaters, etc.

sleeping baby in laundry basket of clean clothes

A great thing to get the person that has everything is a unique, handmade scarf, sweater, blanket or other item that you find at a local craft or school fair. In our small City at least two churches and two schools are having holiday craft fairs.  The City is also coordinating a Winter Farmers Market which will have tables from local crafters.  If you know how to make hand knit items, that’s awesome, but if you don’t, support someone who does!  Remember that real wool and cotton can be expensive, and you are paying the crafters for their time and skills as well as the wool.  This is not a way to find a great deal, it’s a way to get something unique, made with care and love.

9. Local or handmade jewelry like Solar Panel Jewelry

Solar Panel Necklace

Another choice for the person that has everything is unique jewelry. Jonathan created Solar Panel Jewelry two years ago for Alicia and it is hugely popular today. You can order items he has already made directly from his Etsy site, or you can order a custom piece and he will work with you to make it to your specifications.

10. Eco-Friendly Slippers

wool slippers
Wool Slippers

It is a great idea to take your shoes off at the door to help keep chemicals and allergens out of the house. Having a pair of comfy slippers at the door to change your shoes really makes it easier to do this, especially if you have hardwood floors. Jonathan has really been wanting new slippers made from eco-friendly sources made in a sustainable manner. He has looked everywhere for some and finally found a  a pair of eco-friendly slippers on amazon.

Update: I received a pair of these slippers for my birthday and LOVE them!

11. Bar shampoo or soap

All Natural Bar Shampoo

Last year we received J.R. Liggett’s bar shampoo for Christmas and it was one of our best presents!  We had never heard of bar shampoo before, but it is a very eco-friendly variation on something people need.  Bar shampoo and soap are better for the environment for a number of reasons, including transporting less water around. It’s also easier to find bar soaps and shampoos without lots of chemicals, harsh cleansers and artificial fragrances.

Happy Holidays and Happy Greening!

What’s on your green wishlist? Share your dreams and desires in the comments.

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  1. These are great ideas. I would love wine and chocolate for Christmas! I would also love gift certificates to my favorite herb stores. And my number one wanted thing is an enrollment in an herbalist program specifically for childbirth educators. Yep. That’s my number one thing.

  2. This is such a great list! Thanks for putting it together 🙂

  3. Thanks for such a great list, Jon! A big part of green gifting is handmade and reusable – love all the items you’ve included here!

  4. Thank you for this list!! I love getting a guy’s perspective on green gifts. Now I know what I’m getting Hubby for Christmas….the Kill-a-Watt meter! He’ll love it!

  5. These are some great ideas! I had never thought of some of these things and I love it!

  6. Great gift guide!
    I love giving my mom photo books.
    I really like the idea of LED light bulbs in kid’s rooms too.

  7. Great ideas! I’m going to look into the LED light bulbs. I have homemade soaps and shaving soaps from a local company (sweet olive soapworks) on my list this year. Another thing we’re doing- less gifts altogether.

  8. What does the solar panel jewelry do – powere your watch?

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