10 Creative Ideas for Greener Giving


This winter holiday season, the average American plans to spend more than $500 on gifts for friends and family, according to a retail industry survey. That's a big hit on our wallets, but we also need to consider the impact of all that "stuff" on the planet.

This year, make your holidays a little greener by trying out a few of these 10 creative eco-friendly gift-giving ideas from King County's EcoConsumer program.

  1. Create a future. Let's start with a gift idea where "creative" has a little different meaning—actually creating a better future for someone. At the time this is being written, one of the greatest needs globally is in the Philippines after the terrible devastation of Typhoon Haiyan in early November. Give money to typhoon relief efforts in someone's name, or just consider it a gift to the people of the Philippines and the world. Climate change is having a devastating effect on island nations, and these types of disasters illustrate the global inequities of climate change.
  2. Donate local and focused. Local nonprofits also still need help, of course, so consider tailoring a donation gift to your gift recipient and a favorite charity or cause. For example, if you want to give a gift to someone who volunteers at a senior center, you could donate an item that the center needs—like a blood pressure monitor or a small appliance—in that person's name. Check with the center to confirm their needs.
  3. Get practical. Take a realistic look at what the recipient actually needs. If a small home repair such as fixing a drawer is on their list, and you are good at repairs, that makes a great gift. But be sure you don't just say you'll do it in the future and forget about it. Bring your tools and do the job on your special holiday if you can.
  4. Get practical and tasty. We all eat, so non-junk food that the gift recipient loves makes a wonderful practical gift. Farmers markets are some of the best places to find these gifts, and you'll also support regional food producers. A number of local farmers markets are open in November and December. Just as an example, does someone on your list love the Korean delicacy kimchi? You can find jars of excellent kimchi at some farmers markets.
  5. Go big and practical and green. Check first to be sure this works for the recipient, but many folks would be thrilled to receive a new energy-efficient appliance, such as a front-loading washing machine.
  6. Give new life to old stuff. Many of us have practical items we once cherished that we would like to use again, if only someone would fix them for us. A typewriter, for example. If you could figure out a way to get a loved one's old typewriter or record turntable repaired so it could be used again, that would be a truly special gift.  
  7. Pamper without the stuff. Gift certificates for a massage, manicure or pedicure are low-waste "experience" gifts that are usually much appreciated.
  8. Give nothing. If you know a friend or family member will be receptive, suggest not giving each other a gift this year and going to lunch instead. Schedule it for December or early January, and make sure you actually go! Make it more of a creative gift by choosing an exotic restaurant you haven't visited before.
  9. Give durable. Got grandkids or other kids on your list? Rather than giving them more toys, consider going practical with them too. Well-made, durable clothes make great gifts for kids. If they are locally made—or made by you!—that's even better. Sure, they may outgrow them in a few months, but then those high-quality clothes get passed along to other family members, sold on consignment, or donated to a thrift store (where well-made kids' clothes are in high demand).
  10. Give yourself a break. Here's our last creative tip to help your holiday sanity: Take a break from shopping. Go a whole weekend without going to the mall. Walk around your neighborhood and look at the holiday lights. Taking a simple break—just getting away from the shopping madness for a little while can be a well-earned holiday gift to yourself!

For more tips, visit the King County EcoConsumer program's Green Holidays website at www.KCgreenholidays.com. Have green holiday ideas to share? Questions? Contact King County EcoConsumer Tom Watson at tom.watson@kingcounty.gov or 206-477-4481.

Tom Watson is project manager for King County's Recycling and Environmental Services (www.KCecoconsumer.com).