Gifts in the perfect shade of green – organic, nontoxic, sustainable and otherwise good for the planet – are everywhere this season.
The best of the new generation of eco-friendly merchandise is beautifully designed and often understated. Unlike eco-minded merchandise of the more strident, Save the Earth school, these new products tend to lead with good design and relegate their eco claims to the fine print.
“Green is the new black,” says Anne-Marie Luthro, vice president at Envirosell, a New York City-based market research firm that studies the ways people shop. Luthro and other retail gurus believe there’s a growing awareness on the part of shoppers that the choices they make can have an impact on the world.
This season, more friends and loved ones on your list are likely to be captivated by a gift that indulges them and also walks softly on the earth. You won’t have to work hard to find lots of intriguing items.
“Green products, eco-friendly products are more widely available and more palatable,” says Gwynne Rogers, business director for The Natural Marketing Institute, a market research firm in Harleysville, Penn. that specializes in new product development.
“They’re more enticing on their own, apart from being just green.”
A reduced environmental impact is not necessarily the main selling point here. The goal of gift giving is to match the people on your list with something they’ll truly enjoy.
If your list is not comprised solely of Sierra Club members and Al Gore, you’ll want to consider more than carbon footprints as you shop.
Find gifts you’ll feel good about giving and that will delight the recipient, committed environmentalist or not. Everyone on your list – as well as the earth – will be thrilled.
Although your mental picture of earth-friendly fashion may involve a lot of braided hemp, there are more-beautiful options. And, these items’ green-chic mystique will increase their appeal among makers of fashion statements.
“Designers who are developing organic cotton [clothing] are spending a lot of time to be sure the fabric will be something people love,” says Straus. And that goes for other sustainable fibers and jewelry, too.
Bamboosa’s bamboo-fiber clothing is exceptionally soft and silky, and claims to be breathable and hypoallergenic, too. The bamboo is grown without the use of pesticides. The company behind the line, The M Group, Andrews, S.C., makes all its products in the U.S. and supports sustainability, recycling and nontoxic alternatives.
Bamboosa clothing comes in simple styles to suit a variety of tastes. Its bamboo socks ($7-10), long-sleeved T-shirts for men and women ($26), and women’s sleep slips ($28) – touted as being as comfy as sleeping in the nude – fly off the store shelves around the holidays. Soft blankets ($25) and cuddly hooded towels ($28) from BambooBaby are also popular gifts. Bamboosa and BambooBaby products can be found at boutiques and gift stores.
Designers at Lucina Jewelry, Portland, Ore., collect a variety of natural materials from around the world – gemstones, nuts and seeds, and hand-forged silver – and transform them into captivating accessories. Fiery red jewelry made of the red, corn-like choclo seed from Columbia, like the topselling Berry Coil Bracelet, made of the choclo strung on a coil of recycled Columbian pesos ($46), will please the most discriminating accessory-lover this holiday.
Everyone likes to eat, especially during the holidays. Those who appreciate fine flavors may be naturally drawn to smaller farms and artisanal or organic options, notes Michael Straus, owner of Straus Communication and childhood resident of an organic dairy farm. Delight your hungriest friends and family with these delicacies: Chocolate truffle tea blends from Mighty Leaf Tea, San Rafael, Calif., feature whole leaf teas, spices, herbs, and fruit, plus chocolate chips and cacao nibs, to produce rich, complex flavors like Mayan Chocolate Truffle that even cocoa-lovers will enjoy.
Find them specially packaged in a handmade Abaca tea box ($42) or reusable mini tins ($28.95) for the holidays at specialty gift and food stores and upscale department stores.
For those who like to cook (not just eat), an assortment of organic spices, tsp spices from Baltimore- based The Seasoned Palate, will get the culinary juices flowing. Each tin comes with 12 packets, each with a 1 teaspoon of the spice (hence the brand name.) The line was awarded Best in Show at the 2007 Gourmet Housewares trade show in Las Vegas. Select a gift set ($20 to 45) to jump-start your favorite cook or mix and match flavors from lemon zest to ground ancho chile ($10 for 12 teaspoon-sized packets). Don’t forget to note in your gift card that the spices’ metal tins are the perfect size to be reused as iPod holders. You’ll find the line at high-end grocers and specialty stores.
Teens and Tweens This group is notoriously hard to buy for and may also be unimpressed when you tell them their gift is “good for the earth.” But what if they happen to love an earth-friendly item?
Captivate your favorite young gadget hound with Solio, a portable solar-powered charger and backup battery ($99.95).
Open the Solio’s wings to collect and store 10-12 hours of energy for cell phones, iPods, Game Boys, digital cameras, GPS systems and virtually any handheld electronic device. Once charged – either via the sun or a wall socket – the Solio battery holds its power for up to a year, so they’re great for back-country trekkers and emergency situations, too, as many a hurricane disaster relief worker can attest. Solios, by Better Energy Systems, Berkeley, Calif., are available at select sporting goods chains, department and specialty stores.
The Los Angeles-based Box Girls do their good deeds behind the scenes, contributing some of their profits to charities that support families and children and slyly sneaking topics that promote actual connection and communication into their “Box of Questions” games. Despite the do-gooding, all the recipient sees is fun! Choose The Girlfriends, The Slumber Party or The Girls Night Out question sets (“If you could trade a body part with someone in the room, what would it be and why?), with cards that double as coasters, or special editions just for the holidays.
The Thanksgiving Box of Questions (“What are you most thankful for this year?”) features an added reason to give thanks: It’s printed on recycled paper with soy inks, and a portion of its proceeds will benefit the environment.
The Hanukkah Box of Questions (“What miracle have you witnessed in your life?”) comes with two wooden dreidels. The Box Girls boxes can be found at Whole Foods, Saks Fifth Avenue and gift stores.
New Parents or Parents-to-Be Newly minted parents are one of the fastest growing subsets of environmentalists. “As new parents, they are thinking increasingly about the world around their children,” says Christine Lim of Straus Communication, a San Francisco public relations firm that specializes in sustainable products and issues. But these gifts offer more than a brighter future: Designed and created by nurse/herbalist/mama in charge Melinda Olson, Earth Mama Angel Baby products meet needs moms-to-be may not even know they have, and they soothe baby with organic ingredients. The Clackamas, Ore., firm uses certified- organic herbs and oils for teas, bath herbs, handmade soaps, salves, lotions and massage oils, all free of fragrance, dyes and preservatives. This holiday, find “special delivery” gift sets with natural stretch oil, Happy Mama aromatherapy spray, and herbal lip balm for moms or bottom balm, baby lotion, and baby oil for little ones ($15.95) at upscale food and department stores.
For Coyuchi, the Point Reyes Station, Calif.-based purveyor of organic cotton sheets and bedding accessories, any item designed for babies – from embroidered bedding ($55 to $139) to T-shirts ($18.75) to hooded bath towels ($44) – is a perennial best seller. Also popular are the company’s bigpeople bedding separates in shades of rich pomegranate or acorn sateen ($32 to 98). Coyuchi products can be found at specialty stores.
How many little somethings are you going to need for the holiday gatherings on your agenda? These treats make great stocking stuffers, too. Products from EO/Small World Trading Co., Corte Madera, Calif., include only essential oils (that’s the EO in the brand name) and other plant-based ingredients. The results are scents like calming French lavender, stimulating grapefruit and mint and refreshing lemon verbena in lotions ($7.99), shampoos ($7.99), and all-purpose soaps so gentle you can use them to clean vegetables, your pooch, or your vehicle ($7.99). Look for new bubble baths and foaming soaps this season, and find EO Products at natural food stores, independent grocers, salons and spas.
The snazzy design and delicious aromas of Method’s products will likely have their recipient hooked before she even realizes they’re non-toxic and biodegradable. The San Francisco- based company creates a wide array of cleaning sprays and wipes – all-purpose home cleaners, dish soap, laundry soap, hand and body soap – and accessories including candles, aroma sticks and cloths. Select from the latest scents of the season – cinnamon bark, hollyberry and peppermint vanilla – in soy candles ($9), air fresheners ($8 to 15), or hand wash ($4). Find these and other Method products at mass merchants and drug stores.
And take heart. According to the experts, in the coming years everyone will be giving and receiving green gifts. “Global warming is trickling down,” says Diana Dawson, senior project manager at Envirosell. “We slowly see that [awareness] broadening, and gift giving will start to reflect that. Green is around to stay.”
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