Avoid Greenwashed Holiday Items: Go Simple with Our Last Minute (Truly) Green Gift Guide

If your holiday shopping list still looks dauntingly long, and you’re sick of clicking through all those holiday guides, take our advice:  Go simple.

Going green is often about simplifying, not consuming more.  It’s about getting rid of the crap we accumulate in a responsible way, learning to make use of any waste we create, and only holding onto what’s really important—the stuff we really need, and will use, for years to come.

Below are a few valuable tips from CEH staffers that will inspire sighs of “finally-done-with-holiday-shopping” relief!

1. Homemade Cardboard Ornaments:  This one is great for families with young kids.  It’s a craft project that not only gives kids a fun way to make homemade gifts for the whole family, but also makes use of the cardboard boxes from all those holiday Amazon orders.

a.  Unfold and flatten out a cardboard box.  Cut large squares and give one to each of the kids.

b.  Have the kids draw an outline of a reindeer, Santa, Menorah, or whatever object they want to make an ornament out of on the cardboard.  Or use one of these ornament templates:  reindeer, winter bell, candle, star, candy cane and more.

c.  Grab some mini bells to attach, glitter, and the rest of the art supplies and let the kids decorate away!

2.  Take Some E-waste Off Your Friends’ Hands:  So many people acquire new electronics for the holidays, which leaves them with a whole bunch of old electronics to get rid of.  Why not offer something ultra-green and ultra-useful: make a homemade card that offers to take your friend or family member’s e-waste to a local E-Steward recycler.

It may sound silly, but they’re going to have to get rid of that old stuff at some point, so you’re eliminating a (very un-fun) chore for them! Plus, you’re making sure it gets done the right way!  Check out this list of certified e-stewards to find a recycler near you.

3. Give Smarter, Greener Electronics: You may have seen our 2011 Greener Electronics Holiday Shopping Guide already, but if you haven’t, now is the time to check it out.  This guide helps you as a consumer identify companies and products that are better (or worse) when it comes to several key environmental issues.  One product we’re especially excited about is the HP Envy Printer—the first-ever PVC-free printer on the market!  Though HP is far from perfect, we’re glad they’re making strides to eliminate toxics, and we’re pleased to support this kind of good, green product development!

Of course, the greenest gift of all is the gadget that you don’t buy.  Or at least, a gadget that you buy used.  Check out the CEH website for resources on buying refurbished electronics and for prolonging the life of existing products.

4.  Give the Gift of a Good Read:  Most of us know how to find well-priced books online.  Why not give your friends or family something that could expand their awareness of toxics and environmental health?

Some staff favorites:

-Pick up a copy of Annie Leonard’s “Story of Stuff” to read about “how our obsession with stuff is trashing the planet, our communities, and our health—and a vision for change.”

“Raising Elijah” by Sandra Steingraber is perfect for new mothers.  Steingraber “speaks as an ecologist and expectant mother, viewing her own body as a habitat.  Now she speaks as the scientist mother of two young children, enjoying and celebrating their lives while searching for ways to protect them—and all children—from the toxic, climate-threatened world they inhabit.”

-“Our Stolen Future” by Theo Colburn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peter Meyers “identifies the various ways in which chemical pollutants in the environment are disrupting human reproductive patterns and causing such problems as birth defects, sexual abnormalities, and reproductive failure.”