Green living has become the wave of the future, and as a result a new market has developed. Greener options are available in just about every sector; cars, appliances, and even gifts. Here is a list of the top green gifts to give.

Re-usable Shopping Bags

Plastic bags are a major environmental offender, as they can take hundreds of years to degrade. They often find their way to the ocean where they have been known to kill birds and marine life who get entangled in them or they mistake the pieces of plastic as food. Give the green gift of reusable bags, many people have integrated these reusable bags into their grocery shopping routine. EnviroSax has created a variety of bags in many colours and sizes. These gift worthy bags are not only fashionable but are also made of sustainable fabrics such as

Green I-Phone Apps

For the I-Phone user there’s a slew of green apps to gift, to help anyone live a greener life.

  • GetGreen – sends a green living tip every day.
  • The Find Green App- locates Eco-friendly businesses such as spas, and restaurants. Some users have touted it as the green yelp.
  • GoodGuide – Want to know which product is the greenest? Try this app.
  • Carticipate – Looking for a carpool? This social app helps link people who are going to the same place.

Eco-Friendly, Re-usable Water Bottles

Re-usable products are one of the easiest ways to reduce ones carbon foot print. TreeHugger.com reports that the United States consumes 1,500 plastic water bottles every second. Plastic is not only bad for the environment but also for the consumer as it leaches toxins into the water that have been linked to health problems such as reproductive issues and cancer. For a greener choice, give a reusable water bottle like the Swiss-made Sigg water bottles, they are Eco-friendly BPA-free.

Kindle- The Electronic Book

There is no doubt that the printing and distribution of books leaves a giant carbon footprint. Rather than gifting a book try a greener option; the Kindle. It’s an electronic device that allows you to download and read books often at a discounted price. Recently released books typically go for £9.99 each and older books for closer to £5.00.

Sustainable Household Goods

Looking for a great organic gift? Try handmade kitchen towels and napkins from Branch. The towels are handmade in Transylvania, Romania by local women. According to BranchHome.com, the collective that manufactures these napkins works to preserve traditional Romanian handicrafts while providing jobs for women that allow them to stay home and raise their children. The towels are made from organic hemp and cotton grown on family farms, then harvested, processed and spun by hand.

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Celebrate an eco friendly and green Christmas. Plan ahead and remember to incorporate reducing, reusing, and recycling in daily habits and lifestyle both during the holidays and year round.

Green Packaging

Creating one’s own gift wrap is a good way to ensure that gift packaging is earth friendly. Thankfully, many shipping companies no longer use Styrofoam peanuts. When they do, save and reuse them instead of throwing them away.

Christmas Trees

Taking down the Christmas tree is a huge job. Christmas celebrants with a fireplace or wood burning stove have an easy way to dispose of the Christmas tree. Those who don’t have a safe way to burn wood may either offer the tree to those who do, or find out if the local recycling centre takes wood or old trees.

Recycle Bins

Set up recycling bins before any holiday or Christmas party, big or small. The bins need not be the ones given to households by the city; many types of containers will do:

  • Generic large plastic bins
  • Clean garbage bins or wastepaper bins
  • Paper shopping bags
  • Big cardboard boxes.

Have one bin for each type of packaging:

  • Clear glass
  • Coloured glass
  • Aluminum cans
  • Plastic by number
  • Paper
  • Cardbaord.

Take paper and markers or even crayons and create colourful signs, one for each bin. Label what goes in the bin.

Depending upon how much sorting people are willing to do after the party, less bins may be appropriate.

Reuse and Recycle Cardboard

People send each other gifts in the mail, and these gifts are usually in sturdy, corrugated cardboard boxes. Do not throw boxes and packing material away.

  • Break down mailing boxes for recycling.
  • Break down and keep the mailing boxes. Reuse them next time mailing a package.
  • Give boxes to a friend who is moving.
  • Give extra boxes to somebody who sells on Ebay. Ebay entrepreneurs may also appreciate leftover packing material.
  • Keep boxes for personal storage needs.

Holiday and Christmas Cards

Some cards received are sentimental and remain keepsakes for many years. Christmas cards that come down with the rest of the decorations need not be thrown away or recycled.

Snip off the part of the card that was written on with a pair of scissors. The personal, written on part goes in paper recycling. Offer the colourful pictures from holiday cards to a local preschool or daycare. Many teachers and caregivers will appreciate these free art and craft supplies.

Reuse

Store-bought wrapping paper and bows are easily saved and used again. Stick-on bows almost always remain intact, and affix to a package with a small piece of tape. Nobody wants to save wrinkled or dog-eared gift wrap, but sometimes the paper from a large present does remain intact and can be reused to wrap a small present next year. Best idea is to use recyclable gift wrap.

Sturdy gift bags can be used numerous times. Save gift bags received and use them for gift wrapping or other purposes, such as a lunch bag or reusable shopping bag.

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Most young couples select a few cherished and time-honoured traditions for their special day which are dear to their hearts or beliefs. In the 21st century it is becoming more common for brides and grooms to unite traditional wedding customs with a passion for the environment. With any size budget and a little creativity, having an earth-friendly celebration does not mean sacrificing style and elegance.

Earth-Friendly Weddings: Trading Senseless Pomp for Eco-Friendly

It is a new age – a time to toss aside the “cookie-cutter” weddings for originality and sustainability. It is time to trade senseless fluff (and waste) for mindful indulgence. From the rings to the honeymoon, options that offer environmental value come together with the tradition and style common to most weddings.

It is estimated that most U.K. couples budget an average of £20,000 for their wedding, not including the cost of rings or the honeymoon. Americans spend £72 billion each year on weddings, £19 billion per year on wedding gift registries, and £8 billion per year on honeymoons. Why not take some of that money and add new depth and meaning to an already momentous occasion?

7 Steps to a Green Wedding

1. Invitations

The typical wedding invitation consists of several pieces of paper – the actual invitation, possibly a separate reception invitation, a map, an RSVP card and return envelope. Why not consolidate everything down to one or two sheets and use 100% recycled paper or tree-free paper? An ultra-modern and Eco-friendly way to invite guests to the big day is to create a wedding website, send out electronic invitations, and allow guests to RSVP to the website. There is also the option of sending out a traditional paper invitation and having guests RSVP through a supplemental website.

2. Location

Choosing a location that is convenient to most guests to minimise the amount of travel impact or picking a spot where the ceremony and reception can be held together are great ways to set an earth-friendly tone. Consider picking an outdoor venue if weather permits – the beach, a large garden – it will require less decorating and provides a setting for the pre-ceremony photo session and reception as well.

3. Rings

Consider purchasing diamonds which were synthetically grown in a laboratory versus mined diamonds. They are real diamonds (they just did not take billions of years to form) and they are less expensive. Another option is to melt down an heirloom ring to create a new and unique piece of matrimonial jewellery. Don’t forget about Ebay and local stores that sell vintage jewellery for finding one-of-a-kind pieces.

4. Wedding Dress

One of the most favourable “green” options here is to wear an heirloom wedding gown passed down from the bride’s mother or grandmother. Again, look into Ebay and second-hand stores for finding unique and often considerably less expensive choices. If a used wedding gown is out of the question, consider having a custom gown made from organic hemp-silk or buy a dress that could be worn again for other special occasions.

5. Flowers & Favours

An artistic alternative to fresh cut flowers is to make paper flowers that can be recycled, or use silk bouquets. If fresh flowers are an absolute must, find a local florist that offers organically grown, local in-season flowers or, buy fresh flowers from the local farmer’s market.Low-cost, Eco-friendly choices abound for wedding favours. Here are a few ideas for keepsake and edible favours:

  • Wedding soap favours
  • Seed packet favours
  • CD wedding favours
  • Gourmet organic chocolates
  • Reusable cloth tote bags
  • Small charitable donation in each guest’s name
  • A small plan

6. Food

Going organic, seasonal, and local is the simplest way to provide guests with a green gustatory experience. Have the cake decorated with locally grown seasonal flowers rather than plastic toppers, or choose a keepsake topper that will be kept afterward. Consider renting real linens, glassware and dishes rather than opting for disposables. Donate leftover food to a local homeless shelter or food bank.

7. The Honeymoon

A viable choice for a green honeymoon would be to go somewhere local, or select a destination that could be used for the wedding ceremony, reception, and honeymoon. Many couples today are choosing to engage in ecotourism for their honeymoons. Listings for these green excursions can be found at Conservation International, National Geographic, Planeta.com, and Responsible Travel.

Going Green – A Beautiful Thing

Every couple hopes their wedding day will be a celebration and reflection of who they are and what is important to them. A green wedding is a unique and personable way to make the special day more meaningful and show guests how a sustainable lifestyle can be both beautiful and chic.

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The latest eco-friendly home trend involves “family cloth” – a term for using machine washable fabric instead of toilet paper. And family cloth isn’t just for hardcore pro-environmentalists anymore – it’s an earth-friendly living trend that’s catching on quickly among virtually everyone who’s open-minded enough to try this toilet paper alternative.

What is Family Cloth?

The terminology can be a bit deceiving and household that switch to family cloth doesn’t involve a communal bathroom wipe or sharing of any kind when it comes to this toilet paper substitution.
“Family cloth” refers to the practice of using fabric wipes instead of toilet paper. Most often, family cloth enthusiasts will cut up old T-shirts or old Jersey “T-shirt” fabric sheets for use in the bathroom.

The freshly laundered fabric is typically kept in a basket or neatly folded pile within arm’s reach of the toilet. And once soiled, the fabric is placed in a special receptacle alongside the toilet. A covered trash bin typically works the best when it comes to providing a sightly, odour-free receptacle for soiled bathroom cloth. The fabric is then laundered using detergent and bleach, and it’s then ready for another use.

The Benefits of Family Cloth as a Toilet Paper Alternative

Admittedly, Westerners are very attached to their toilet paper, so in the beginning, converting to family cloth can be a difficult sell. But incredibly, most people who are open minded and eco-conscious enough to try family cloth as an alternative to toilet paper wonder why they didn’t switch sooner. The vast majority of people who try this toilet paper substitute never go back to the toilet paper rolls full time.

Kim Cushing, a Boston-area mother of three, recently decided to try family cloth in the bathroom, along with more than a dozen other mothers in her Moms’ Group. And incredibly, all 17 of the moms in Cushing’s group whose families tried cloth in the bathroom said that they will continue to use fabric wipes instead of toilet paper.

“I’m not super ‘green’ or extremely eco-conscious. But I’m open minded so I thought we’d give this a try. It was a difficult sell to the rest of the family in the beginning, but after one or two trips to the bathroom, everyone was sold on family cloth!” Cushing explained, adding, “Everyone agreed that the family cloth is softer and more comfortable than toilet paper and you don’t end up with toilet paper lint or bits left behind.”

Considerations When Switching to Family Cloth

Cushing did offer a word of warning for anyone who’s considering a switch to family cloth as a toilet paper replacement: “You’ll want to go out and buy a set of metal tongs and keep them in the bathroom beside the toilet. For the first few days, I think everyone in the family accidentally threw the fabric into the toilet when they were finished wiping – it’s a difficult habit to break! So you’ll need to fish the fabric out of the toilet and a set of tongs works best.”

Some family cloth users do opt to provide toilet paper to accommodate guests who aren’t comfortable with cloth wipes.

Another advantage of family cloth? “No more clogged toilets! Our kids were always using too much toilet paper and clogging the toilet. This completely eliminates that problem,” Cushing said, concluding, “It’s a bit more laundry, but in all, family cloth beats toilet paper.”

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Whether it be Christmas, a birthday, or other occasion, there are some great choices for gifts for someone who is concerned about the environment. There are a lot of eco-friendly products on the market. However, consumerism and buying beyond your needs is not an environmentally friendly notion. Check out the ideas below for all kinds of gifts, with tangible items plus non-traditional options that won’t eventually add to Earth’s great rubbish heap.

Food-Related Gifts

Everyone needs to eat. The best food that is also kind on the environment is that which is grown locally. What can be more local than from your own home? A window box herb garden or a potted tomato or pepper plant will provide them with delicious meals and a reminder of you every time they cook with these ingredients. For a bigger bounty, buy your recipient a share in a community garden or farm cooperative. This will provide a wider range of produce, all organically grown. Or you could simply buy them a basket of organic locally grown food to enjoy right away. And because some items still need to be bought from the store, consider a handful of canvas shopping bags. This solves the problem of paper versus plastic. You don’t need either if you bring your own washable reusable bags to transport your goods. And they will be the first on a trend, because some stores are now doing away with paper and plastic all together and issuing their own reusable bags to customers. One last food-related idea is an attractive bucket to keep under the sink. When cooking, the chef can place it on the counter and dispose of food waste inside, and also scraps after a meal, to be carried outside afterward and dropped into the compost pile. This reduces food waste in the water system or garbage heaps and provides a rich source for next year’s plantings.

Organizations/Activist Groups

Memberships to different environmental groups can help people make a difference all year long. The Sierra Club has a long history of protecting the environment. It lobbies for environmental causes and distributes a regular magazine to members to update them on news stories, club outings, relevant books and products, an Ask Mr. Green column, and much more. The Nature Conservancy buys up land around the world to be protected, providing crucial habitats for wildlife. It also puts out a magazine to regularly update members on what’s happening. The World Wildlife Fund concentrates on saving the species around the world, but particularly giant pandas, tigers, whales, dolphins, rhinos, elephants, marine turtles and great apes. Education is also an important element in the organisation. The Environmental Defense Fund is another option. Founded by scientists, this organisation influences national policy and works with business to develop cleaner technologies. It has a more corporate and market-driven focus.

Media: Books and Videos

There is a good chance that a true environmentalist on your list has already read these books or seen the videos, but for those who are new to the subject, these are great educational and riveting pieces. Three excellent books on climate change are The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery, The Winds of Change by Eugene Linden, and Field Notes from a Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert. A book about how drastically humans have shaped all aspects of Earth and how it would change if we were to suddenly disappear is documented in the brilliant book The World Without Us by Alan Weisman. Also look for local hiking guides or gardening books. A movie that most every environmentalist has seen by now is An Inconvenient Truth, with Nobel peace prize winner Al Gore. But it’s still a good movie to have on hand for review or to share with those who are not yet enlightened. Also look for Who Killed the Electric Car? on DVD.

Other Non-Consumer Gifts

Tickets to a show, whether it be a play, the movies, a concert, or a special exhibition coming to town. Yearly passes to a museum or other local entertainment. A sticker for entry into state parks or national parks, if your recipient lives near one. A gift certificate to a green inn for a getaway. Try a member of the Green Hotels Association. Make housework lighter and safer with a gift certificate to an eco-friendly cleaning service.

Practical Gifts

If you want to buy “stuff,” then make it something the gift recipient can actually use. A cover for their old water heater or even better, a new water heater. In fact, any energy-efficient appliance would make someone happy. Not only are they good for the environment but they work better in general than the older models. A low-flow shower head to conserve water or CFL bulbs, especially if you can get them in the harder to find soft light shades, odd sizes that fit unusual fixtures, and with traditional shapes for exposed locations. A bike is great for those who need to travel short distances and also a big benefit to their health. And for longer distances, who wouldn’t love a hybrid?

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