November 27, 2011

Green Christmas gift ideas

Green gifts are always in vogue. But buyer beware. Greenwashing by the corporate marketing folks can easily mislead the wisest consumer. “Truth in advertising” is still just a phrase.

Whatever you buy, wrap them in green. It's easy to make Christmas gift bags with seasonal material from your local fabric store. I'm still using the ones I sewed 25 years ago. And even newsprint can look attractive with ribbons.

“Need or want?” is the question most of us should ask ourselves more often. When you get down to it, “nothing” is exactly what many of us truly need. Nothing is more wasteful than unwanted gifts.

The Black Friday hype about buying those latest gadgets or toys makes a lot of people forget that the perfect gift is still something made by the giver or a service that will never end up in a landfill. How about “Four hours of babysitting,” movie/DVD gift certificates, “One home-cooked meal” or a CSA membership at a local farm for family members?

Or what about recycling something as the ultimate in re-gifting. I’m not talking about that hated tie or old perfume, but something truly creative. Even Lady Gaga’s latest “trashion” video has her sporting empty soda cans and a repurposed rotary phone.

Crab by Marcie Evans
One person’s junk? Another’s treasure? I have run into quite a few artists who can turn a bunch of "junk" into amazing pieces of art. Poquoson, VA artist Marcie Evans does some dandy feats with nails and bolts. I first saw her work at Williamsburg's annual Occasion for the Arts.

I had an "Aha!" moment when I saw how she transformed nails into fish and crabs. So I asked if she'd like eight huge glass jars full of multi-size nails—my Dad's collection over his lifetime that had been gathering dust in our garage. I couldn't toss them, but I had no idea of how to "recycle" them in a meaningful way. Check out to see more of Marcie's work or find out which local galleries have them.

Green gift suggestions ─ For foodies, animal lovers, DIYers, kids, health and wellness gurus, pop culture fans, and others can be reviewed, by category, at . I fell for the cute building blocks that can teach about the rainforest, and unmatched gloves turned into cute teddy bears.

Treat yourself ─ To a free EnergySMART Programmable Thermostat if you have a natural gas furnace—or a $25 rebate on the programmable one of your choice. The Department of Energy estimates these can save you up to $180 a year if you use the recommended manufacturer settings. Apply at  until the offer ends on December 31.

You saw it here ─ Soon you will be able to harness solar energy the iPad way with a nifty portable gadget that should remain useful beyond the lifetime of many of your etoys. Third Wave Power’s  researchers came up with the multi-functional mPowerpad product for outdoor enthusiasts and those who travel to remote places and need to recharge their cameras, iPhones and iPads. It might seem like an infomercial because it also includes a reading light and even an ultrasonic insect repellent. It will not, however, spin your salad. It was unveiled it a few weeks ago and should start shipping in January for about $80.

Giving is easy ─ If you make a charitable donation that allows the giftee to give your donation to one of 180 causes of his or her choice—such as Cell Phones for Soldiers or the Nature Conservancy. Simply order a greeting card at and activate a code with a specific donation amount. Donation amounts start at only $5. Bluebell Giving uses Charity Navigator to evaluate charities on their operational efficiency and financial stewardship.