Ask the Expert: Green holiday gifts

| by Teena Hammond
Ask the Expert: Green holiday gifts

Feeling a bit like the Scrooge as the holiday countdown nears? No worries. There's still time to buy the perfect green gift, thanks to the folks here at ProudGreenHome. As part of the Ask The Experts series, the pros share their thoughts on the ideal gifts this year. And don't worry — some of them don't cost a cent.

Melissa Rappaport Schifman, principal at Resonance Companies

During holiday time, it's hard not to notice the shopping spirit in the air. Commercials scream at us to hurry up and buy while supplies last. Stuff is everywhere! But if you are thinking green, you might want to give your loved ones something else this year. Do they really need yet another trinket, ornament, tie or sweater? Why not think creatively and give them something that is a great gift and better for the planet? Here are my top three:

1. Give the gift of an experience. For my father's 70th birthday, I took him to Taylor's Falls for a walk, then we canoed down the St. Croix River. With the exception of having to drive a car an hour away, what could be greener? We are enjoying the outdoors, which continues to instill a sense of wonder for the earth's beautiful waters and landscape. And, instead of getting a thing that he may not want, he (and I) will have a memory that lasts forever. Other ideas for experiences include an adult "play date" where you go to a movie or an art gallery, a gift certificate for a massage, or a trip to the indoor rock climbing gym!

2. Give the gift of homemade food in a glass, reusable container. The label should include the ingredients and the recipe, so if the recipients like what you made, they can make it themselves. And the reusable container encourages people to shop in the bulk section of the grocery store, which reduces waste compared to pre-packaged food. Ideas we have done in the past include homemade organic almond butter or nut-free granola.

3. Give the gift of yourself. Are you really good at something, like organizing closets, cooking pancakes, or taking care of plants? Give a gift certificate for your services. It's another way of showing your love, and it only costs you time, not money.

It's difficult to not shop for things during this time of year, but just remember: it's your choice what you do with your time and money, and there are other ways of giving than buying stuff.

Farah Ahmed, fifth year architecture student at City College of New York

Want to go green, save the environment, and transform the interiors of your home? Check out TreeHugger for some neat finds! You'll be able to match the interest of any of your friends, from those who love food or fashion to health or outdoor enthusiasts!

Today's culture is media-frantic, and we are so consumed by the innovative fascinations of technology that we often forget the negative impact of purchasing such items. Why not go green with green technology that we can use in our everyday lives?

One cool product is the "Blue Earth" solar powered touch screen phone! Not only is the phone solar powered, but it is made from a recycled material, PCM, obtained from water bottles. The phone is also equipped with eco-friendly software that makes the user more conscious of their imprint on Earth- the 'eco-walk' application is a pedometer, which calculates the number of steps you take, and consequently, how much C02 emissions were saved from not taking vehicular transportation. The small phone is easy to carry, and will become a green companion everywhere you go!

Scott Flynn, principal at Flynner Building Co.

At Flynner, we think the best gift for the holidays is a live chicken. Chickens have a true triple bottom line.

People ... chickens double as pets making them great people companions.

Planet ... chicken manure is great for composting and replenishing mother earth.

Profit ... chickens produce eggs, what better return on investment is there than that?

And ... what could be greener than a triple bottom line investment?

Heather Ferrier Laminack, marketing manager for Ferrier Custom Homes

I would recommend The Energy Detective (TED) as a gift for anyone that is curious about curbing their energy consumption. We provide them as gifts to our homeowners once they move in, and we always receive great feedback. The device will track your household's energy consumption and you can even break it down into how efficient your HVAC system is, how much energy your refrigerator pulls, and even how much energy it takes to make a meal! 

Luis Imery, principal at The Imery Group

I believe that the ideal inexpensive green gift is a shower timer. This is a sand clock that you can flip over to monitor the length of your showers. Typically the sand clock is for a five-minute shower. What I like about this little gadget is that you save water and energy by being aware of how much time you spend bathing.

Of course, a better alternative is instead of having the water run continuously for five minutes, you actually bathe by intervals. You first use enough water to get wet, then you can use the shampoo and soap, and then rinse. However, I seriously doubt that many will embrace this idea ...

On that same line, another water conservation gift could be a Toilet Tummy.

Basically this looks like a plastic bag that you fill with water that attaches to the interior of your toilet tank. The volume of the bag will displace a certain volume in the water tank that it will otherwise by refill with water.

So every flush from that point on will reduce your water consumption. You can play with how many bags you can add before the toilet start operating inefficiently.

Tom Smith, Anua director of operations and marketing



Green holiday gifts:

  • Sustainable insulation for your home — warm in the winter, cool in the summer, save on energy bills year round.
  • Low-flow faucets, showerheads and toilets to save on potable water use.
  • Replacing older appliances with energy efficient appliances which will save energy costs.

Ted Clifton, principal of Zero-Energy Plans LLC and CVH, Inc.

The best gift I could give anyone would be the bill for their next 30 years worth of energy, if they do nothing to change their energy habits. For the house alone, that would amount to about $220K on average, double that if you include their cars.

Topics: Going Green

Teena Hammond
Teena Hammond has published more than 2,000 articles in People and W magazines, Women's Wear Daily, and in dozens of newspapers and books. She also wrote a home improvement, remodeling and decor column that ran in Gannett newspapers nationwide. She's interested in all things green and would love to hear from you with your story ideas.

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