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.

Eco-Friendly, Local Gifts at Downtown Market

It’s not even Thanksgiving yet but we know that some of you already have shopping on the brain. To find local and eco-friendly gifts for the holidays, consider stopping by the Downtown Holiday Market, which opens on December 4, 2009.

The market runs from noon to 8:00pm through December 23, 2009 and is produced by the Downtown DC Business Improvement District and Diverse Markets Management.

Here are some of the fair trade and eco-friendly items that will be on sale:

  • Harun’s African Art (MD) – Handcrafted tableware and jewelry made of copper and brass alloys from South Africa; sales support upwards of 70 families of the Ndebele culture in the Lowveld of South Africa near Kruger National Park
  • Figs & Ginger (NC) – Eco-friendly sterling jewelry
  • Jenafusion (VA) – Handcrafted fashion accessories made from recycled, reclaimed, vintage, and new material. Products include hats, purses, scarves and wallets.
  • The Devil Made Me Do It (MD) – One-of-a-kind clothing from 99% “upcycled” materials.
  • The Red Persimmon (MD) – Fair trade and handmade gifts from India, Bali, Uganda, Mexico.  Items include clothing, linens, silk and cotton purses, ornaments, and accessories.
  • Three Stone Steps (MD) – Eco-friendly and fair trade accessories imported from Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Haiti. Products include bags, wallets, silk scarves, and jewelry.

Some local food vendors of note will include:

  • Guata-Java (MD) – Specialty fair trade, organic Guatemalan coffee.
  • J. Chocolatier (DC) – Handmade luxury truffles and buttery caramels.
  • Tea Co (VA) – Organic loose leaf teas and tea wares.
  • Terre de Provence (MD) – Specialty olive oil.

Green Gift Guide: Part 2

Step away from the fruitcake and Chia pets. Instead, give a gift that shows you care about your giftee and Mother Earth, too. Here are some more eco-friendly gift giving options with a local twist.

Check out the Downtown Holiday Market for an assortment of handmade gifts from local craftspeople such as functional wall art made from recycled materials and vintage images.

On December 13th, warm up with a soup tasting from Souper Girl at Greater Goods and stock up on eco-friendly goods and wrapping paper.

Give the gift of food with Oceanaire’s “Sustainable Feast of the Seven Fishes.” Chef Klink’s holiday feast showcases sustainable, seasonal and local ingredients including U.S.-farmed Australis Barramundi and Sherry Crab Bisque.

Zoom zoom. Or should we say “zip, zip”? With a Zipcar gift certificate you can give the gift of a BMW, Volvo or a Mini Cooper (well, sorta) while cutting down on pollution and car consumption at the same time.

Happy Holidays!

–GG DC

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.