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.

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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