9 Inexpensive Green Christmas Gift Ideas

by Kevin on December 26, 2008

It’s the day after Christmas. Depending on your shopping style, you may or may not be out in the hustle and bustle of the day after Christmas. We’ll be missing out — woe is me.

Yet some of you still are likely to have Christmas parties to go to, or perhaps you had to delay your Christmas because of travel plans. I thought I’d share some inexpensive Christmas gift ideas that are also relatively good for the environment. Read over the list and then leave a comment with any additions you would make to the list.

Give the gift of light.

Replace all of the light bulbs in your gift receiver’s home with LED or compact fluorescent light bulbs. There is a pack of 8 General Electric CFL bulbs for $9.50 on Amazon — pretty impressive at only $1.18 per bulb. Some people don’t like CFLs because the light they give off isn’t exactly like an incandescent bulb. We’ve replaced many bulbs in our house and really can’t tell much of a difference. Plus the money you save on your electric bill will make up for the additional cost of the bulb.

Help fight deforestation.

Each year give a sapling of a tree to a friend. Specifically to those friends that have yards! Planting a tree in your yard has benefits beyond fighting deforestation and soaking up some of that CO2. If the tree is planted in a proper location, as it grows it will provide shade to the house — lowering air conditioning costs. Older trees generally also add value to a house, so the earlier you give the better.

Insulate the home.

Offer to add an additional layer of insulation each year to the receiver’s house. Maybe they live in an older home with poor insulation qualities. Each year you could help upgrade the insulation level in the attic. This fights both climate extremes — keeping the house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

Help them kick the bottled water disaster.

It is well documented that bottled water is an environmental disaster. On top of that the water isn’t even any better than a typical batch of municipal water. Bottled water is expensive to the point of insanity. Tap water is clean, people. If you have to filter — and we do — use either a Brita pitcher or Pur filter on your faucet. Brita is supposed to start recycling their US pitcher filters in 2009, so that’s doubly good environmental news.

Wrap all gifts in reusable containers.

There was a neat video on YouTube called Furoshiki reusable gift wrapping. The idea is to get away from the standard paper and bows gift wrap that can be used only once. Instead, you give the gift inside of a folded skarf (which could also be part of the gift). Other possible containers include tote bags or grocery-store specific reusable bags (no paper or plastic required!).

Give nothing.

We discussed this earlier this month. Instead of feeling required to go buy that $30 waffle maker that you know the person you are giving it to will never use, why not declare a “no gift” policy with your family and friends? Instead, invest your money in spending time together. Travel to be together. Go out and do something together. If you feel required to help the economy, go out to eat — you’ll both enjoy the meal and not have to return any kitchen appliances the week after Christmas. Give nothing.

Give environmental Christmas decorations.

It’s now the day after Christmas so you should be able to find some inexpensive decorations out there. Target green decorations — LED Christmas lights for example. Check where other decorations are made (less traveled, the better) and what is inside the product.

Make Christmas ornaments out of recycled products.

I imagine this would be especially popular with those out there with kids. Why not teach them a lesson recycling and then put words into action? Find items around the house that can be “recycled” into Christmas ornaments. It may not be the usual display of picture perfect crystal balls, but it will help to drive the lesson home to them.

Give plants.

Both my Mom and my wife’s Mom give us house plants on a fairly regular basis. (Unfortunately, we seem to have brown thumbs and they refresh our supply of victims.) Specifically look for perennial plants (that come back year after year) and plants that can easily be split into two separate plants. We have a shamrock plant that we’ve “restarted” several times and now have a couple of pots of the thing in various locations. Plants are actually pretty nice to have around the house, as long as you can keep them alive.

The bottom line: Christmas doesn’t have to be this plastic-laden holiday full of excess and waste. Green gifts also don’t have to be expensive and usable only by the environmental fanatics. There is a middle ground.

Here are things that we have either given or received in the past from the above list:

  • A Japanese maple tree (not for Christmas, but nonetheless a gift from our parents that is planted in the back yard).
  • A Brita pitcher with filters (not a gift, but we use it every day).
  • Last year I wrapped my wife’s gifts in newspaper. Not exactly the greenest “container” out there, but I got to extend the use of the recyclable paper.
  • We gave nothing this year. We also told our parents not to give us anything, but alas they didn’t listen very well. Maybe next year!
  • We have given and received plants over the years.

What about you?

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