It's holiday shopping season, and Grinning Planet would like to point out that holiday phrase "Ho, ho, ho!" also relates to being green--it's Jolly Green Giant's tagline. Well, OK, that doesn't exactly get us to "eco-friendly" meaning of being green. But when shopping for holiday gifts, there are a number of ways we can be environmentally friendly.
All manufactured items, including gifts, require material and energy to be produced, and production and transportation of items results in some level of pollution. Here are a couple of ways to make sure those resources aren't a waste:
1) Useful Gifts -- One of best ways to ensure resources related to your gift don't get wasted is to make sure your gift doesn't end up gathering dust in a closet. While "surprises" can be nice, giving someone a gift out of blue without any clue whether they'll truly like it or use it may get you one of those half-hearted "Um, oh, cool, thanks" responses. A different approach is to ask your giftees for wish lists, which works especially well within families, where social protocols and rituals can be more easily adjusted. This lessens surprise factor but guarantees that you're giving a gift that person will use.
2) Drawing Names -- As families and circles of friends grow, number of gifts being exchanged can increase rapidly. Rather than each person within a group giving a gift to every other member of group, names can be drawn so that each person gives gifts to only one or two people. This reduces overall amount of resources related to presents and will reduce your holiday stress level. It may be too late this year to implement such a strategy, but if you'd like to try it next year, suggesting change to your family/friends just after this holiday season will give people time to think about it and adjust to idea.
Regardless of how you arrange your gift giving, choosing environmentally friendly products will be better for planet than buying everyone an economy sized bottle of cloying cologne or some other non-green item. When looking at items claiming to be green, US Federal Trade Commission advises that shoppers look for quantitative or specific claims, rather than general claims like "green," "eco-friendly," or "environmentally safe," which are open to interpretation. Better descriptions are things like "made from organic cotton," "made from 50% recycled materials," or "manufactured without animal testing."
Here are a few categories of gifts that would be more eco-friendly than some others: