It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like…Consumerismtime!

Unlike my craftier sisters, I don’t start making gifts in October. I also refuse to make exhaustive lists of people and gift ideas and plan shopping excursions to find just the right piece of junk to wrap in expensive paper that will exist, perfectly preserved in a landfill until the aliens come.

I’m a last-minute gift-buyer, and proud of it! (Because I’m tired at being annoyed with myself. So I’m embracing my late-shopping tendencies). The last few years I usually haven’t started shopping until around the 15th, and that date is coming up quickly. So here’s my exhaustive list for gifts that won’t take too much time to get but won’t rip a whole in the atmosphere or poison a town’s water supply either.

(Don’t forget that gifts of time or experiences–a nice dinner, babysitting for a harried new parent, or a free closet organizing– can be the best and cheapest gifts of all; I especially like giving a dinner out, so I can enjoy it too!)

Sometimes you need to give something in a (recycled) box, tied with a (reused) ribbon. Here are my choices for Gifts You Can Put in a Box Under the Tree:


Pangaya has a green gift guide for easy picking and choosing of lovely eco-fashionista duds. Have all your selections shipped directly to gift recipients so you don’t have to. Double-shipping- having gifts shipped to you, then shipping them to recipients, should BE AVOIDED at all costs! Just think of all the fossil fuel needed to ship something twice….(There is free shipping on all orders through 12/17/06. Also, check out the Pangaya blog— there are great discounts and specials every day advertised there.)


The t-shirts at Intention Creations are based on the concepts discussed in “The Secret”, “What the Bleep”, “Ask and It is Given” and a number of other


Get a solar panel, organic cotton baby toys, or recycled yoga mats at Gaiam (shipping is only $4.95 for all orders.)

Whole Foods (only in Cali) is selling windpower credits on cards.

At Do Great Stuff, you can buy from a lot of mainstream online stores and your commission will go to the non-profit of your choice (perfect for if you’re buying new books or that gadget your Dad really, really wants, and promises to use forever). But what he really wants is this briefcase for men that I gave him as a gift!

The site explains it this way:

Online merchants pay commissions to websites that bring them customers. When you shop at any store in the Do Great Stuff online shopping center, your purchases generate commissions. Most of the commissions we collect go to help non-profit organizations selected by our members. The rest of the commissions are used to pay our overhead, keep our site operational and hopefully someday generate some profits, which would allow us to donate even more money to worthy causes.

For each merchant, we clearly post on our site how much commission will go to the charity of your choice and 100% of that posted amount will go to charity.


The National Wildlife Federation
has a whole catalog of gifts that you can browse through, but I really like the pewter ornaments (see above), because for every one you buy, a tree is planted.

Some ideas for Giving a Good Feeling:


I’m adopting a Blue Footed Booby for my Dad, cause he can relate to these guys.

The World Wildlife Fund has an animal-adoption program. When you donate money to your (or your giftee’s) fave animal, they get an adoption certificate, a color photo and an information card about the animal. For donations of $50 or more, you get a plush toy of the animal (and let me just warn you, these are ridiculously cute toys!!).


Greenpeace is just doing some kick-ass work lately. They continue to be a really activist-based group who is out there giving grief to whale hunters and clear-cutters. They are one of the leaders behind the campaign to get Apple and other electronics manufacturers to clean up their act and make their products recyclable (with 1 million iPods selling every week, there’s good reason why).


Give a gift of time or money to your local animal shelter or environmental organization in someone else’s name. Often smaller groups struggle to make ends meet and make important contributions to the land you live on and the water you drink (and save the stray animals in your streets!) Remember, a regular donation monthly (even if it’s just 10 bucks) is better than a one-time donation, and it’s easier on your wallet. Many groups have a set-up so you can automatically debit your checking account on a regular basis.

If you’re not sure where your local animal shelter is, go on Petfinder and put your zip code in; rescue groups and shelter names in your area will come right up.

If you don’t like any of my suggestions, Lime has written a great article, Giving Gone Green that gives some more ideas and advice!

The Center for a New American Dream also has gift ideas and some sound ideas for beating holiday stress.

Starre Vartan is founder and editor-in-chief of Eco-Chick.com and the author of the Eco-Chick Guide to Life. She's also a freelance science and environment writer who has published in National Geographic, CNN, Scientific American, Mental Floss, Pacific Standard, the NRDC, and many more. She lives on an island in Puget Sound with her partner and black cat. She was a geologist in her first career, and still picks up rocks wherever she goes.