A totally green, low-carbon, and affordable (cheap!) gift-giving guide
How to have a great holiday without warming the world or breaking the bank
Most of us enjoy being generous gift givers. After all, it is joyous to see the surprise and delight of loved ones as they remove the wrapping of those special gifts. Yet our holiday tradition of exchanging gifts has a dark side. According to the price comparison website Money.co.uk, deliveries for Black Friday are estimated to release about 429,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases. That is comparable to flying back and forth between London and New York 435 times. And that’s only Black Friday, which constitutes just a portion of holiday shopping.
With all that CO2, Black Friday might be thought of in more than one way. There is a new push to rename the day after Thanksgiving as Extinction Friday because of the cost to the planet caused by our consumerist ways.
All these greenhouse gases rising up in the air prompted me to think that I might help you this year by giving a carbon neutral, or at least a lower carbon footprint, gift guide. I googled around the internet while thinking about this, and mostly found a bunch of sites that, in essence, said, “buy our stuff.” With the list below I hope to get away from that. So happy holidays and holiday shopping to everyone!
The publishing industry has an environmental footprint. Trees are felled to make paper, and each new book has a small carbon footprint owing to printing production and shipping. Once that new book is purchased and read, however, letting it sit on a shelf is just a waste.
Used books are for the most part carbon neutral. And they are cheap! Which means that you can buy plenty of gifts for your reader friends. Think of it. Buying new books has become drudgery. You have the choice between the soullessness of a Barnes and Noble or the equally unrewarding but quick transaction that is Amazon.
But used bookstores remain homes to book lovers. Walking into one can feel like visiting with old friends. The owners, managers, and clerks are usually eager to talk about Steinbeck, Pynchon and Proust, and they can be very helpful when you’re trying to find that special book for a family member or friend. You may also be surprised to find many recent bestsellers filling the shelves.
Clothes (same thing, used!)
Clothing has a BIG carbon footprint. The fashion industry pumps 1.2 billion tons of CO2 in the atmosphere every year, making it responsible for ten percent of global emissions. With fast fashion, in which a garment is considered old after it is worn once or twice, our desire to be dressed in the latest is clogging our landfills.
Like books, clothes can find purpose when they are reused. I have to confess that I had to get used to this idea. For years, when I thought of used clothing, what came to mind were dreary aisles of downscale clothes that seemed to be at least 20 years behind in fashion. But in the last ten years, my wife has introduced me to more upscale used clothing shops that offer seemingly brand new sweaters, shirts, and pants for a fraction of what those garments cost at Nordstrom’s or Marshall’s. A used clothing boutique can be the perfect place to find that special someone a new (to him or her) sweater or shirt. And despite the high quality of these items, they aren’t wallet busters.
So many people eat processed foods nowadays that gifts of simple, home cooking are truly appreciated. Your neighbors and friends will certainly swoon over a loaf of fresh, homemade bread. I recently prepped up a batch of cabbage kimchi, way more than my wife and I could eat in a month. It has made an ideal gift for some friends and neighbors.
People also appreciate receiving casseroles or pastries that are old-time, handed down, family recipes, things that are ethnic and maybe a bit unexpected. What about making a family member that lasagne recipe Grandma Talerico taught you when you were a little girl? Maybe the potato latkes you learned to make while going to college in New York City? Or how about the Thai basil dish you learned to make while in the Peace Corps?
Food has a carbon footprint, of course. The general rule is that meat production, particularly beef, emits more greenhouse gases than fruits and vegetables. A gift of food could be your opportunity to be a food climate evangelist. You can surprise and delight (and possibly convert) your meat-eating relatives with vegetarian or even vegan dishes. Most folks, including some diehard carnivores, have been more than pleased when I’ve served my channa masala recipe. And you probably have a vegetarian chili recipe that is so good folks won’t even notice that it doesn’t have an ounce of meat in it anywhere.
This is a big one. The gift of your time can mean a lot to friends and family. You can help parents by giving your time to babysit, and lots of folks need petsitters from time to time. You can help with chores, such as gardening or spending time on that special project that’s been languishing. Gifts of time are always appreciated.
You can be creative with this one. You can have reading time with your friend’s children. If you play a musical instrument, you could give a personal concert as a gift.
Things that aren’t things
If you feel that you have to buy something new for your brother-in-law or grandparents, something that you can hand them, you can get them things that won't clutter up their closets or basements. Theatre or concert tickets make great gifts, for example. Family and friends might like passes to zoos or museums.
Happy Holidays and some general business from The Green Dispatch
If you follow The Green Dispatch closely, you may have noticed that publishing has dropped from twice a week to about once a week. It has proven to be a daunting task, the twice-a-week publishing, and I’m taking a break from it to reassess. I’m not sure I can produce the quality research and writing that I’m wanting for this Substack with such a high-volume output. I’ll be publishing about once a week for the first couple months of 2023 (Gosh, writing that year, 2023, seems so science fictiony in the future!). If I feel that I can keep up the quality, I’ll return to the previous publishing schedule.
And if you’re feeling in the holiday spirit, particularly if you’re one of the folks who has a free subscription to The Green Dispatch, please consider dropping a contribution into the online tip jar by clicking the “Buy me a coffee” button. Remember, a portion of all proceeds goes to some of the organizations that are covered here, such as the Center For Biological Diversity and Fauna and Flora International.
For more environmental science & news follow me on Twitter @EcoScripsit.