Low-Impact Gift Ideas

This guest blog post was written by contributor Alison Drucker.

The greenest holiday gift of all is the one that doesn’t come in a box. Reduce the environmental impact of your holiday shopping this year with gifts that don’t require wasteful packaging, have not been shipped from China, and won’t add more clutter to your loved ones’ lives.

Try some of these non-material gift ideas – which can be experienced, consumed, and enjoyed with a lower environmental footprint.

For your significant other

Take your better half on a weekend getaway to a D.C. bed and breakfast. Also within a short drive or train ride into neighboring states are farms, wineries, ski areas, lakes, and other locations where romantic B&Bs abound. Look for environmentally-conscious lodging through the U.S. Green Building Council, ENERGY STAR, Virginia Green Lodging, or iStayGreen.

For a friend

Give your pal some tickets to a concert or sporting event – if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll be invited along. Check the schedules for local venues like the 9:30 Club and Black Cat, or get an open-ended gift certificate redeemable for any show at Wolf Trap. There are also still plenty of Caps and Wizards games left this season. If you don’t want to commit your friend to a specific date, an IOU always works. 

For your parents

Get Mom a gift certificate for a spa treatment, or treat the folks to a good meal out with a gift certificate to a local restaurant. For ideas, check out our list of local eco-friendly spas and restaurants, or search the LocalHarvest and Green Restaurant Association databases for establishments in other areas.

For the kids

Savings bonds have always been a common gift for kids, but Planting Empowerment puts a new twist on them with the Forest Savings Bond. $100 buys 5 ½ hardwood trees, which are planted on deforested tropical land to help restore it; when Planting Empowerment begins to sustainably harvest and sell the timber, your gift recipient will receive the returns from the investment. Or, adopt a species at the National Zoo – the donation supports animal care, medication, and equipment.

For your office Secret Santa

For a caffeine junkie, get a gift certificate to a local coffee shop like Java Green or a selection of organic teas from D.C.’s Teaism. An iTunes gift certificate can go a long way even if you only spend ten bucks; if you’re looking to spend a bit more, get an eMusic gift subscription of 60 song downloads for $30.

Totally stumped?

What do you get for the person who has everything? How about the absence of something – the greenhouse gas emissions from her holiday travels or a year of her life? You can buy carbon offsets from companies such as Native Energy, Terrapass, or Silver Spring-based Carbonfund. Your purchase supports renewable energy projects or methane capture and storage, helping to balance the environmental impacts of your gift recipient’s lifestyle.

2nd Annual Going Green DC Gift Guide

The greenest gifts you can give may be your love and undying gratitude. But for those of you who also want to give something a little more, um, tangible, we suggest the following local and eco-friendly gifts:

Tea for Tots

It’s never too early for kids to learn about the environment, or how to serve a perfect cuppa tea. This delightful miniature tea set from Green Toys is made from recycled milk containers and is available at Greater Goods (1626 U Street).

Price: $24.50

Special offer: Mention GoingGreenDC and get 15% off all purchases from Greater Goods (in store only, may not be combined with any other offers).

Scents & Sensibility

Now you can enjoy candy cane, eggnog, and strudel without the calories. A holiday gift set from Our Butterfly Effects includes a six-pack of soy melts, a spa candle, room spray, and a six-piece tea light set in four delicious scents. The eco-friendly soy candles are made without color additives or dyes, GMOs, paraffin, pesticides, or herbicides. The Winter/Holiday Collection is also packaged in recyclable materials and features a festive message tag.

Price: $26

Special Offer: Get 15% off orders over $30 with discount code GoingGreenDC.

Pillow Talk

Lounge in style with beautiful wool pillows from local artist Gretchen Cook. The wool is imported from Germany and dyed using eco-friendly practices. Nature-inspired motifs make these perfect for the stylish interior design diva. Available at RCKNDY (1515 U Street).

Price: $85-$95

Body Buzz

Wake up and smell the Hazelnut Coffee Body Scrub from Perfect Organics. This luxurious extra-gentle all-natural scrub is made with invigorating coffee beans, replenishing plant oils, and soothing botanical extracts.

Price: $24.99. Add a reusable, sustainable fiber gift bag for $7.

Special Offer: Use the “greendc” discount code and receive 15% off online orders.

Man O Man

For the groovy green guy in your life, Herban Lifestyle’s new men’s grooming products—shaving oil, facial soap, facial lotion, aftershave–are completely natural, with no artificial fragrances or preservatives, and scented with organic spices and essential oils. Plus they come in manly eco-friendly packaging.

Price: Varies

Special Offer: GGDC readers get 20% off on all orders. Please put “WDCGG20” in the notes/messages to seller at checkout.

Strike a Pose

Tranquil Space, one of our favorite eco-friendly yoga studios, offers a variety of gifts including owner Kimberly Wilson’s TranquiliT line of lifestyle bodywear made from organic, sustainable, luxurious bamboo fabric. You can also purchase personalized gift cards and class passes online or at the studio for the yoginis on your list.

Price: Varies

Happy Baby

The eco-baby gift set from holeco life is ideal for the new parents on your list. It includes eco-baby body lotion, eco-baby multi wash, eco-baby body oil, and eco-baby powder, all made with natural and organic ingredients. All products are completely non-toxic, eco-friendly, and come in earth-friendly packaging.

Price: $40

Special Offer: Get 15% off products over $20 (in-spa only, offer valid through December 31 2009.

Bath Time

Biggs & Featherbelle’s holiday bath soak duo includes Snowtopia and Citrus Cheer fragrances and is created with nourishing salts, herbs, buttermilk, and essential oils. The salts are great for soothing achy muscles and itchy skin or just relaxing. Made without synthetic fragrances, dyes, or additives.

Price: $9.99

Special Offer: Get 15% off your purchase when you use the “GREENDC15” code at checkout.

Save the Bay

Be the Bay recycled gift cards are printed on 100% post consumer recycled paper using soy-based inks. Each clear-top box of eight cards includes two Rockfish cards, two Blue Crab Cards, two Deadrise cards, and two Sailboat cards. The company donates at least 10% of profits toward environmental restoration and education projects around the Chesapeake Bay.

Price: $10.50

Special Offer: Get 10% off online store purchases with code DCGREEN. Offer good through January 31, 2010.

Smart Art

On Eco-Artware, you’ll find recycled silver jewelry by Washington artist Courtney Gillen, who works with recycled metals. The site also offers many other environmentally friendly gifts such as earrings made from vintage game tiles and multi-color tote bags handwoven from cleaned plastic fruit juice packs.

Price: Earrings (pictured) are $48.

Green & Clean

Terraessentials offers a trial-size set of four organic body washes (Lavender Garden, Cool Mint, Left Coast Lemon, and Sultry Spice) made from gentle, detergent-free, coconut and organic olive castile, naturally-occurring clay minerals, organic botanical extracts, and organic essential oil. The set is packaged in an attractive gift box with real plant-based cellophane and a reusable sparkling gold bow.

Price: $18.50

Special Offer: Free trial size organic soap with orders of $30 or more. Please put “GoingGreenDC” in the comment box of the shopping cart. This offer may not be combined with any other offers and is good through December 31, 2009.

Grape Finds

Uncork a rare and sustainably farmed wine from Washington, DC-based Farmstead Wines. The company sources wine from small, family-run farms in Europe that produce hand-crafted wine.

Price: Varies

Special Offer: For a limited time, Going Green DC readers will receive 25% off purchase–  enter promo code “holiday11” at checkout.

In a Lather

For the Love of and Greater Goods have teamed up to create District Suds, a special line of soaps available at Greater Goods or online. The beautiful, faintly lavender scented soap is a great stocking stuffer.

Price: $6.50

Special Offer: Get 20% off all For the Love of products (online only) when you mention GoingGreenDC.

Lip Smacker

Don’t let dry, cracked lips ruin your holiday fun. Stock up on vanilla + anise flavored Brew lip balm from Skincando and while you’re at it, get some for your moisture-challenged friends as well.

Price: $8.00

Special Offer: Mention this gift guide and get $1.00 off Brew lip balm at Apres Peau (in-store only).

Last but not least, consider giving the gift of a membership to Live Green so that your friends and family can enjoy discounts to local companies all year round!

More local gift guides worth perusing:

We Love DC’s Cool Artsy Gift Guide

Metrocurean’s Local Food Gift Guide

Stay tuned for our non-material gift-giving guide later this week featuring gifts that don’t come in a box, and check out the Etiquette Advocate’s tips on regifting.

DC Green Gift Guide

The holidays are upon us. And for many, that means a rush to the megastores to stock up on gifts. Why not zig while everyone else zags by buying from local businesses that offer eco-friendly goodies? By considering these gifts, you’re not only supporting small local businesses, you’re also contributing less to the environmental problems that go along with shipping goods from afar. Here are a few of our local faves:

Be a Soap Star
Stock up on handcrafted balms, salves, bath salts and massage oils made with natural and organic ingredients packaged in adorable recyclable containers from Herban Lifestyle. Owner Mary Kearns never uses chemicals, preservatives, synthetics, artificial fragrances, artificial colors, or GMOs in her products, and she donates 5% of gross sales to the Sierra Club and Herb Research Foundation. The Organic Holiday Cookie Sugar Scrub smells like a yummy dessert but won’t add to your waistline during the holidays, and lip balms in flavors like Tangerine Dreamsicle and Mint Chocolate Chip are all natural and (almost) good enough to eat. Products can be ordered directly from Herban Lifestyle or at Holeco Wellness Medi Spa.

Get Curdied Away
Who doesn’t love a hunk of creamy, tangy cheese? Luckily there are two great cheese shops in the area including Del Ray’s Cheesetique, where you can find Appalachian cheese with shitake mushrooms and leeks from Virginia, as well as selections from around the world. In Penn Quarter, saddle up to Cowgirl Creamery for a divine selection of artisanal cheese from small-scale producers around the country.

Strike a Pose
Infuse your favorite yogini’s practice with pizazz by giving her yoga wear from DC-based Even Keel Yoga. Founded by local yogini Liz Matthews, Even Keel is the place to find comfy, fashion-forward pants, shorts, and leggings made from organic cotton and bamboo in an array of styles and colors. Buy online or at local retail outlets such as Boundless Yoga, Flow Yoga, Caramel, and Inspired Yoga.

Choc Up
Give the chocoholics on your list a box of rich hand-crafted truffles from Alexandria-based Krishon Chocolates. Owner Eric Johnson makes decadent artisanal chocolates using high quality ingredients such as Michel Cluizel Chocolate and organic cream and butter. He can make anything from chocolate, including chocolate ruby slippers and a chocolate likeness of your, um, favorite body part. For traditionalists, a box of five truffles, in flavors like pomegranate and Fair Trade Latte, will set you back a mere $17.

Heel Yourself

Okay, chances are you’re not going to give the gift of shoes to anyone but yourself. And that’s fine….you deserve them. At newly opened Simply Soles in Columbia Heights, you’ll find some shoes that are made either with recycled materials or in a manufacturing method that uses vegetable oils and dyes, instead of petroleum based products.