Green Holiday Shopping Adds 
A New Twist to the Spirit of Giving 
By Erica Hesch 

 

For many people, the holiday season can often become stressful and expensive. The holidays always come faster than we expect — and we are faced with that familiar mad rush to get everything done so we can carve out a little time to spend with friends and family. For everyone who’s tired of the rush, and would like to spend less and tread more lightly on the earth, Co-op America provides the resources to help everyone’s shopping adventures and holiday parties run smoothly. 

Co-op America’s web page www.coopamerica.org  has many suggestions for planning a stress-free holiday get-together that will save consumers time and money — and will reflect their values. From holiday party ideas and alternative gift wrap, to businesses that sell unique and innovative hand-crafted gifts from artisans all over the world, Co-op America can help people have a saner, less expensive, and more exciting holiday season. 

A major concern for many people today is how to buy gifts from non-polluting, fair-wage businesses that allow consumers to feel good about their purchases. 

*Co-op America’s National Green Pages provides a listing of businesses that focus on earth-friendly practices. Greenpages.org is the online version of the National Green Pages, an annual directory of over 10,000 innovative green products made by companies on the cutting edge of social and environmental responsibility in the United States. This guide is used by hundreds of thousands of people each year to find creative gifts for everyone on their list. Consumers can also get the paper version of the guide by calling (800) 58-GREEN. 

*“Responsible Shopper,” a new and innovative interactive database that allows people to find out the inside scoop on how companies treat the planet and their employees, is available online from Co-op America at www.responsibleshopper.org . Consumers can use this database to find out the social and environmental records of hundreds of companies and compare companies to each other. 

To host stress-free parties that are easy on the planet, Co-op America suggests: 

*The time-honored recipe swap in which everyone brings a potluck dish to the party, but they also bring several copies of the recipe for other guests. Potlucks distribute preparation time and expenses among all the guests, so the party isn’t as hard on the host and guests have recipes to take away from the party. 

*One way to find out things you never knew about your guests is to have everyone bring a “skill certificate” to trade. At a soiree that Co-op America member Marcia Peters attended, people brought certificates offering picture-framing skills, a home-cooked meal, sustainable landscaping advice, and more. “You can put the certificates all out on a table and let everyone choose one,” said Peters. “Or you can auction them off and donate the cash to charity.” This type of gift exchange reduces waste by allowing everyone to offer skills rather than material gifts that will one day end up in a landfill. Not only that, but it allows people to spend more time with friends and family when they redeem their certificates later! 

*Host a zero-waste party that will also save you some bucks. With everyone online nowadays, sending e-cards is easier than ever and loads of fun — and the best part is — they’re free! Try www.evite.com  for a free online invitation service, or check out www.ireachout.com  for a free electronic card service that donates money to a variety of nonprofit organizations for every card you send. During your party, use real plates, cups and silverware, and fabric tablecloths and napkins to cut down on waste. If there is leftover food at the end of your party, have your guests take some home so it doesn’t get thrown out. Finally, recycle any cans or bottles you accumulate from the party. 

*Instead of holding a present-giving party, have a present-making party. One idea is to set out several old plant pots and some nontoxic paint and when your guests arrive, everyone can decorate pots while they eat and talk. When they’re finished, the guests have the option of exchanging planters with someone else or keeping their own. Everyone will go home with a beautiful, handmade gift from a friend. 

Co-op America is a national nonprofit consumer and investor education organization. Located in Washington, DC with over 52,000 members around the country, Co-op America provides practical tools and information for how people can live a saner, greener, and healthier lifestyle. For more information, call Co-op America at (800) 58-GREEN. 

GREEN BUSINESSES WITH ONLINE CATALOGS
 It’s so easy to shop green you don’t even need to leave your home. Here are some green businesses that have online catalogs with green gift ideas for this holiday season: 

•For the beer drinker: Seven Bridges Cooperative is an organic brewing company that sells ingredients for organic home brewing. A tasty homemade beer is sure to warm up any beer-lover’s heart! www.breworganic.com 

•Gift baskets that are a gift of hope: The Women’s Bean Project is a nonprofit business that specializes in employing women who need jobs and skills to help them achieve self-sufficiency. The women make things such as coffee gift baskets, soup mixes and gift crates. What a great way to give two gifts at once! Check out www.womensbeanproject.com 

•A new twist on traditional blocks: Enchant the little ones with tree blocks made by EarthSmarts. These award-winning blocks use natural shapes of downed wood which means no trees were cut down to make them! www.earthsmarts.com 

•Fair trade gifts for everyone on your list: SERRV International imports its products from community-based artisan partner organizations throughout the developing world. From their hand-carved chess sets to unique jewelry to musical instruments from around the world, SERRV has gifts for everyone. www.serrv.org 

•For bird lovers: Dew Drop Hummingbird Feeder from Real Goods: Hummingbirds love this beautiful handblown 100 percent recycled glass feeder just as much as you will. Find anything from clothing and home products to games, books and music at Real Goods, an environmental superstore that strives to demonstrate the need and practicality for renewable energy technologies that are clean, cost-effective, and non-polluting. www.realgoods.com 

•Looking for something really different? Give non-material gifts: tickets to an event, a contribution of your own time or talent, or a donation to a charitable organization in some-one’s name. Your friends and family will appreciate such unique, thoughtful gifts, and they won’t have anything to throw away or return to the store. Organizations like Alternative Gifts International offer gifts from bicycles to literacy training that can be donated in someone’s name to people in need. www.altgifts.org  or (800) 842-2243.

 For more gift ideas, check out Co-op America’s National Green Pages online at www.greenpages.org  or call (800) 58-GREEN to order your own copy!

Here are some responsible gift wrap ideas: 

Each year, Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday period than at any other time of year. Try these gift wrap ideas: 

1. Wrap with scraps of fabric and pin closed. 
2. Use the Sunday comics. 
3. Reuse wrapping paper you’ve received. 
4. Wrap in handkerchiefs or scarves that become part of the gift. 
5. Put your gift in a reusable canvas shopping bag. 
6. Use old maps or posters. 
7. Decorate brown paper grocery bags with rubber stamps, crayons, watercolors, or old holiday cards. 
8. Use leftover wallpaper. 
9. Use old calendar pages. 
10. Decorate a flowerpot and put the gift inside.

 


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