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Green Gifts: Avoid a Winter Wonderland(fill)

Now what do you suppose is in that bag?

Ribbons, bows, wrapping paper and packages upon packages of batteries – these are some of the staples of the holiday season. This means lots of waste, both material and energy, but there are ways to make holiday traditions more eco-friendly:

Non-material gifts aid in waste reduction and promote interaction with the outdoors. “We like to encourage gifts that encourage outdoor recreation, especially ones that get kids outside,” says Laura Piraino, the conservation coordinator for the Sierra Club’s Pennsylvania chapter. “We feel that spending time outside in our beautiful fields and forests will help encourage stewardship.”

Giving someone a gift certificate to go whitewater rafting, kayaking, rock climbing or fishing can be a memorable alternatives to material goods. Websites such as and allow gift givers to choose adventures and gift recipients to schedule when to embark on them.

Quality outdoor gear is durable and long-lasting, and it will encourage the recipient to enjoy the outdoors. Bicycle gear, resolable boots, binoculars and other equipment for recreational activities are great ideas for people of all ages, and they help one become better acquainted with his or her local environment.

Consumable gifts … three words: food, wine, beer. Everybody needs to eat and drink, most people like quality food and drink gifts, and the environmental impact is low.

Books and trendy fashions are gifts that kids and teens will enjoy. Piraino suggests giving books such as Holy Ground, Hey Mr. Green! and How to Plant a Rainbow. For teens, there is organic and fair trade clothing and many kinds of drinking bottles, messenger bags and jewelry made from recycled materials. Vintage is also trendy, so items like vintage records and clothing can be given without buying new products.

“We also find that getting teens and college students interested in renewable energy is exciting,” Piraino says, suggesting solar backpacks that have built-in iPod and cell phone chargers.

Donations are great gifts for your hard core environmental friends, family and coworkers. Make a donation to a local conservation group in their name.

Packaging is often excessive, so reusing newspaper instead of brand new wrapping paper will reduce waste, as will reusing (or avoiding) ribbons and bows. Having children paint or draw wrapping paper is another alternative. Use reusable bags as gift bags, so recipients get the gift inside and the bag, which can be reused countless times.

Energy should also be taken into account when purchasing gifts. Programmable thermostats, low flow shower heads, gift certificates for energy auditing services and rechargeable batteries promote energy efficiency.

Also, take into consideration the amount of energy a gift will use before giving it away. “Think about the life cycle of the gift,” Piraino says. “Think about the energy and water that went into making the gift, and also think about what energy and water may be used throughout the lifetime of that gift.”

These tips can help anyone have a green holiday – even if there’s snow on the ground.