Send all your eco-inquiries to Jennifer Grayson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions may be edited for length and clarity.
My family is doing a grab bag for our holiday party this year, and I need to buy something under $25. Any ideas for something sustainable but cool? They're always ragging on me for being a tree hugger.
Most Eco Etiquette readers know by now that I'm not big on buying things for the sake of buying, even if those things are eco-friendly, and even if it is the holidays. I stand firm in my belief that the biggest contributor to man-made climate change isn't the gas in our snowblowers or the electricity keeping the lights twinkling on the tree -- it's all the stuff we buy.
Every purchase comes with its price for the planet, whether it's the natural resources used to create it, the energy expended to manufacture it, the fuel used to ship it, or the waste created when disposing of it (not everything can be recycled forever).
The bottom line: There's no such thing as guiltless green gift-buying. That bamboo iPad shellcase may look sustainably chic, but what are you going to do with it when you're ready to (hopefully) recycle your iPad? And do you really need a candy cane-embossed T-shirt, even if it is made from organic cotton? I hate to see green reduced to a gimmicky marketing tool.
That's why for the most part this holiday season, I'll be giving gifts without giving actual "things": A home-cooked beef (grass-fed, of course) bourguignon dinner for my mom and step-dad; a refurbished family heirloom for my husband (don't read this, honey); and a pledge to my baby daughter to take an hour-long technology break every day without fail.
That being said, there are some occasions where an actual brought item is warranted -- like at your aforementioned family grab bag party, or, say, as an invited guest to a holiday open house at Martha Stewart's.
If that's the case for you this year, you're in luck: You don't have to resort to the tried-and-tired soy candle, or even a piece of banana art. Stylishly sustainable and affordable gifts abound. Here, my top 10 picks under $25: