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:
The less-meatatarian lifestyle is all the rage, but no one does it more doable (and with more gourmet gusto) than New York Times journalist Mark Bittman, with his just-released and soon-to-become-a-classic Food Matters Cookbook. $21; amazon.com
Since the economy tanked, urban beautification has gone the way of dodo rehabilitation. Help a naughty nature lover spread some seed with this wooden slingshot and 10 hand-rolled seedbombs containing native wildflower seeds. $10; thecommonstudio.com
Worried about packing on holiday pounds? Nicobella truffles (organic/fair trade/vegan/delicious) contain antioxidant-rich ingredients like pumpkin and green tea, as well as natural sweeteners like agave nectar, in lieu of the traditional cream and sugar ganache. $10.80 for 6; nicobellaorganics.com
Help the suds-lover you know go sustainable with a US-brewed organic beer collection, including an adventurous-tasting acai berry wheat ale and a planet-friendly pilsner. Just be sure to recycle the bottles. $24.99 for 8; ecoexpress.com
This 100 percent natural canvas tote bag packs twice the anti-plastic punch: Environmental (1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year); and political (the slogan is a reference to inhuman hate campaigner Fred Phelps). $15; revelandriot.com
Know someone with a sweet spot for music? Give her TerraCycle upcycled portable speakers made from otherwise-unrecyclable candy wrappers. Also in Skittles and Peanut M&M. $13.99; dwellsmart.com
It may not be printed on recycled paper, but a subscription to National Geographic will temper the travel bug without the airplane emissions -- as well as keep a loved one apprised of cutting-edge environmental news. $15; nationalgeographic.com
Know someone who looks at a public restroom paper towel dispenser like a petri dish? Bestow a set of reusable hand towels from PeopleTowels, and free him from germs and 25 pounds of landfill waste a year. $15.99 for 2; peopletowels.com
Give chic with a conscience, with a stack of brightly colored bracelets from BeadforLife. The beads are handmade from scrap paper by Ugandan women, who use the nonprofit-run ecopreneur program as the springboard to a better life. $5 each; beadforlifestore.org
Help the DIY-er in your family get a jump-start on stockings for next year with a gift certificate to Green Sheep Shop, which stocks its online store with eco-luxe yarns. $25; greensheepshop.com. How's that for one-stop sustainable shopping?
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