Business

Gifts in the Perfect Shades of Green

Gifts in the perfect shade of green – organic, nontoxic, sustainable and otherwise good for theplanet – are everywhere this season.

The best of the new generationof eco-friendly merchandiseis beautifully designed and oftenunderstated. Unlike eco-mindedmerchandise of the more strident,Save the Earth school, thesenew products tend to lead withgood design and relegate theireco claims to the fine print.

“Green is the new black,” saysAnne-Marie Luthro, vice presidentat Envirosell, a New YorkCity-based market research firmthat studies the ways peopleshop. Luthro and other retailgurus believe there’s a growingawareness on the part of shoppersthat the choices they makecan have an impact on the world.

This season, more friends andloved ones on your list are likelyto be captivated by a gift thatindulges them and also walkssoftly on the earth. You won’thave to work hard to find lots ofintriguing items.

“Green products, eco-friendlyproducts are more widely availableand more palatable,” saysGwynne Rogers, business directorfor The Natural MarketingInstitute, a market research firmin Harleysville, Penn. that specializesin new product development.

“They’re moreenticing on their own,apart from being justgreen.”

A reduced environmentalimpact isnot necessarily themain selling pointhere. The goal ofgift giving is tomatch the people onyour list with somethingthey’ll truly enjoy.

If your list is not comprisedsolely of Sierra Club membersand Al Gore, you’ll want to considermore than carbon footprintsas you shop.

Find gifts you’ll feel goodabout giving and that will delightthe recipient, committed environmentalistor not. Everyone onyour list – as well as the earth –will be thrilled.

Fashionistas

Although your mental picture ofearth-friendly fashion may involvea lot of braided hemp, there aremore-beautiful options. And,these items’ green-chic mystiquewill increase their appeal amongmakers of fashion statements.

“Designers who are developingorganic cotton [clothing] arespending a lot of time to be surethe fabric will be something peoplelove,” says Straus. And thatgoes for other sustainable fibersand jewelry, too.

Bamboosa’s bamboo-fiberclothing is exceptionally soft andsilky, and claims to be breathableand hypoallergenic, too. The bamboois grown without the use ofpesticides. The company behindthe line, The M Group, Andrews,S.C., makes all its products in theU.S. and supports sustainability,recycling and nontoxic alternatives.

Bamboosa clothing comesin simple styles to suit a variety oftastes. Its bamboo socks ($7-10),long-sleeved T-shirts for men andwomen ($26), and women’ssleep slips ($28) – touted as beingas comfy as sleeping in the nude –fly off the store shelves aroundthe holidays. Soft blankets ($25)and cuddly hooded towels ($28)from BambooBaby are also populargifts. Bamboosa and BambooBabyproducts can be found atboutiques and gift stores.

Designers at Lucina Jewelry,Portland, Ore., collect a variety ofnatural materials from around theworld – gemstones, nuts andseeds, and hand-forged silver –and transform them into captivatingaccessories. Fiery red jewelrymade of the red, corn-like chocloseed from Columbia, like the topsellingBerry Coil Bracelet, madeof the choclo strung on a coil ofrecycled Columbian pesos ($46),will please the most discriminatingaccessory-lover this holiday.

Foodies

Everyone likes to eat, especiallyduring the holidays. Those who appreciate fine flavors maybe naturally drawn to smallerfarms and artisanal ororganic options, notesMichael Straus, owner ofStraus Communication andchildhood resident of anorganic dairy farm. Delightyour hungriest friends andfamily with these delicacies:Chocolate truffle teablends from Mighty LeafTea, San Rafael, Calif., featurewhole leaf teas, spices,herbs, and fruit, pluschocolate chips and cacaonibs, to produce rich, complexflavors like MayanChocolate Truffle that evencocoa-lovers will enjoy.

Find them specially packagedin a handmade Abacatea box ($42) or reusablemini tins ($28.95) for theholidays at specialty giftand food stores and upscaledepartment stores.

For those who like tocook (not just eat), anassortment of organicspices, tsp spices from Baltimore-based The SeasonedPalate, will get the culinaryjuices flowing. Each tincomes with 12 packets,each with a 1 teaspoon ofthe spice (hence the brandname.) The line was awardedBest in Show at the 2007Gourmet Housewares trade showin Las Vegas. Select a gift set ($20to 45) to jump-start your favoritecook or mix and match flavorsfrom lemon zest to ground anchochile ($10 for 12 teaspoon-sizedpackets). Don’t forget to note inyour gift card that the spices’metal tins are the perfect size tobe reused as iPod holders. You’llfind the line at high-end grocersand specialty stores.

Teens and TweensThis group is notoriously hard tobuy for and may also be unimpressedwhen you tell them theirgift is “good for the earth.” Butwhat if they happen to love anearth-friendly item?

Captivate your favorite younggadget hound with Solio, aportable solar-powered chargerand backup battery ($99.95).

Open the Solio’s wings to collectand store 10-12 hours of energyfor cell phones, iPods, GameBoys, digital cameras, GPS systemsand virtually any handheldelectronic device. Once charged– either via the sun or a wall socket– the Solio battery holds itspower for up to a year, so they’regreat for back-country trekkersand emergency situations, too, asmany a hurricane disaster reliefworker can attest. Solios, by BetterEnergy Systems, Berkeley,Calif., are available at select sportinggoods chains, departmentand specialty stores.

The Los Angeles-based BoxGirls do their good deeds behindthe scenes, contributing some oftheir profits to charities that supportfamilies and children andslyly sneaking topics that promoteactual connection and communicationinto their “Box ofQuestions” games. Despite thedo-gooding, all the recipient seesis fun! Choose The Girlfriends,The Slumber Party or The GirlsNight Out question sets (“If youcould trade a body part withsomeone in the room, whatwould it be and why?), withcards that double as coasters, orspecial editions just for the holidays.

The Thanksgiving Box ofQuestions (“What are you mostthankful for this year?”) featuresan added reason to give thanks:It’s printed on recycled paperwith soy inks, and a portion of itsproceeds will benefit the environment.

The Hanukkah Box ofQuestions (“What miracle haveyou witnessed in your life?”)comes with two wooden dreidels.The Box Girls boxes can befound at Whole Foods, Saks FifthAvenue and gift stores.

New Parents orParents-to-BeNewly minted parents are one ofthe fastest growing subsets ofenvironmentalists. “As new parents,they are thinking increasinglyabout the world around theirchildren,” says Christine Lim ofStraus Communication, a San Franciscopublic relations firm thatspecializes in sustainable productsand issues. But these gifts offermore than a brighter future:Designed and created bynurse/herbalist/mama in chargeMelinda Olson, Earth MamaAngel Baby products meet needsmoms-to-be may not even knowthey have, and they soothe babywith organic ingredients. TheClackamas, Ore., firm uses certified-organic herbs and oils forteas, bath herbs, handmadesoaps, salves, lotions and massageoils, all free of fragrance, dyes andpreservatives. This holiday, find“special delivery” gift sets withnatural stretch oil, Happy Mamaaromatherapy spray, and herballip balm for moms or bottombalm, baby lotion, and baby oilfor little ones ($15.95) at upscalefood and department stores.

For Coyuchi, the Point ReyesStation, Calif.-based purveyor oforganic cotton sheets and beddingaccessories, any itemdesigned for babies – fromembroidered bedding ($55 to$139) to T-shirts ($18.75) tohooded bath towels($44) – is a perennialbest seller. Also popularare the company’s bigpeoplebedding separatesin shades of richpomegranate or acornsateen ($32 to 98).Coyuchi products canbe found at specialtystores.

Party Hosts

How many little somethingsare you going toneed for the holiday gatheringson your agenda?These treats make greatstocking stuffers, too.Products fromEO/Small World TradingCo., Corte Madera, Calif., includeonly essential oils (that’s the EOin the brand name) and otherplant-based ingredients. Theresults are scents like calmingFrench lavender, stimulatinggrapefruit and mint and refreshinglemon verbena in lotions($7.99), shampoos ($7.99), and all-purpose soaps so gentle youcan use them to clean vegetables,your pooch, or your vehicle($7.99). Look for new bubblebaths and foaming soaps this season,and find EO Products at naturalfood stores, independentgrocers, salons and spas.

The snazzy design and deliciousaromas of Method’s productswill likely have theirrecipient hooked before she evenrealizes they’re non-toxic andbiodegradable. The San Francisco-based company creates a widearray of cleaning sprays andwipes – all-purpose home cleaners,dish soap, laundry soap, handand body soap – and accessoriesincluding candles, aroma sticksand cloths. Select from the latestscents of the season – cinnamonbark, hollyberry and peppermintvanilla – in soy candles ($9), airfresheners ($8 to 15), or handwash ($4). Find these and otherMethod products at mass merchantsand drug stores.

And take heart. According tothe experts, in the coming yearseveryone will be giving andreceiving green gifts. “Globalwarming is trickling down,” saysDiana Dawson, senior projectmanager at Envirosell. “We slowlysee that [awareness] broadening,and gift giving will start toreflect that. Green is around tostay.”

© CTW Features

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