You don't have to be mean to be green. Nor do you have to leave your conscience at home this holiday season. The gifts you give affect the Earth in the resources they use and waste they create. But more importantly, they are a reflection of who you are as a person and how you choose to honor your friends and family. Green giving lets you celebrate birthdays, holidays and other special occasions in eco-savvy style. Fortunately, there are plenty of gifts for any occasion that are perfect for the recipient and gentle on the environment. Here’s how to find green gifts for everyone on your holiday shopping list.


  1. Tummy tempters: Everybody needs to eat, right? Edible gifts such as cookies, organic coffee, or fresh flowers make a thoughtful gift for almost any occasion and produce very little waste. And besides, who doesn’t love a batch of gooey, fresh baked cookies or a delicious cup of organic, fair trade hot chocolate?
  2. Work it: Save cash and reduce waste by offering up your services in lieu of a material gift. Offer to baby sit, shovel snow, clean a room, make dinner, develop a website, weed the garden, wash the dog, or run an errand. (The possibilities are endless.)
  3. Give a service: Give a gift certificate for a no-waste service such as a massage, haircut or housecleaner.
  4. Be charitable: What do you buy for the friend who has everything? Consider donating to a charity that is near and dear to the recipient’s heart. Check out the Charity Navigator to find a charity to match anyone’s interests.
  5. Turn up the green: Keep the environment in mind when you purchase gifts by looking for fair trade, organic, or locally grown options whenever possible. If it’s appropriate, consider giving a gift such as a solar-powered battery charger or a basketful of compact fluorescent light bulbs to get a friend started on their eco-path.
  6. DIY: If you have the skills, consider making a handmade gift that is much more likely to be cherished (and retained) by the receiver. Put together a scrapbook, make a photo frame, or sew an apron for an easy, low-impact gift.
  7. Buy local: Look for gifts that are produced close to home. Whether it’s a basket of fresh vegetables from a local farm or a ceramic bowl made by a local potter, locally produced gifts minimize the emissions and packaging involved in shipping.
  8. Buy pre-loved: Hit your local thrift shop, flea market, or vintage boutique to find a wide range of unique and time-tested gifts. If necessary, refurbish the item with a new coat of paint or a well-placed ribbon to turn it into a gift the receiver will treasure.
  9. Go no-waste: Gift cards to a favorite restaurant or store are easy to give and popular to receive. Other no-waste gift ideas include tickets (movies, theater, or sporting events), club memberships or charitable donations.
  10. Offset it: Carbon offsets are another great no-waste gift that actually help to save the planet. For every dollar you spend on Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) or carbon offsets money is donated to support a renewable energy or tree-planting project, thereby “offsetting” your friend’s carbon emissions. Check out Carbon Neutral or Green Tags USA to calculate carbon emissions and purchase green tags.
  11. Unplug: Try to avoid giving gifts that will continue to produce waste or require electricity. If you have to give a power-hungry gift, throw in a package of rechargeable batteries and a charger to eliminate waste.
  12. Give green toys: Look for FSC-certified wood and organic fabrics when choosing green toys for kids. And when you have to go with plastic, steer clear of soft plastic toys that are likely to contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The European Union recently banned the sale of toys containing PVC after studies found that these toys leached phthalates that may disrupt the natural development of hormones.
  13. It’s a wrap: Regular wrapping paper costs a bundle and lasts but a few minutes before it hits the trash bin. Consider using a green alternative such as a reusable bag or basket, a scarf, or recycled materials such as newspaper or brown paper bags. You can make your package beautiful with natural adornments such as flowers, dried berries or pine cones. If you need to mail the package, replace plastic bubble wrap and Styrofoam peanuts with eco-alternatives such as crumpled newspaper or empty egg cartons.
13 ways to give green
Green gifts that celebrate the holidays while you save the planet.