Greener Gifts


Ever since I was brainwashed by Woodsy Owl and the “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute” campaign of the ‘70s, I’ve always been a bit of an environmentalist.  Most of the time my green values have dovetailed rather nicely with my tightwad spirit. But for some reason gift shopping has remained beyond my environmental considerations.


Although I get a weird adrenaline rush mining for thrift store treasures, we don’t always have the time to shop secondhand. Plus, I sometimes worry that the gift recipient won’t share my zeal for used goods. In the past, I’ve waited for sales, bought off-season, and just generally bided my time until the right deal came up.


This year is different now that I have a baby to shop for, too. As if my recently heightened green consciousness wasn’t enough, concerns about toys coming from China have pushed me to look for new options. Instead of feeling vaguely guilty about purchasing most gifts at big box stores, I’ve taken some fledgling steps toward becoming a more ethical consumer—and gift giver.  


Buy local: I would love to buy every item I own in a small, local shop but in truth, it sounds way too ambitious to schlep through all of them with my active 15-month-old. My solution–websites and phone calls to scout out options before we ever leave home. Three of my favorite local spots for thoughtful gifts here in Eugene, Oregon are Down to Earth, Elephants Trunk Toy Company, and Eugene Toy and Hobby.


Check online: Rosie Hippos toy company describes themselves as “a small family business in a young forest of cedar trees and ferns.” If that isn’t enough to motivate my inner environmentalist, their huge selection of beautiful hand crafted natural toys did the trick. For older children, Hearthsong Toy Company offers “Toys you’ll feel good about giving.” When I saw their craft kits, games and unique toys, I had to agree. Heirloom toys cost far more than I’m used to paying, but it is in an investment in a toy that may outlast my life.


Make a gift—even if it’s just a small one: For the last seven years my husband and I have made some attractive and some downright pathetic ornaments for each other every Christmas. One year he crafted an ornament that was supposed to resemble the avocado—my most beloved food. Instead it looks rather like fake vomit dangling from a silver cord. Still, it endears him to me every year. Rebecca once crafted ornaments for her nieces and nephews by felting wool from an old sweater into ornaments—green and homemade!


Give an experience: In the long run, memories are the only thing with a lifetime guarantee. Taking a child to the zoo or giving free tickets to an outdoor concert widens their world without planetary consequences. If any one of my family members gave me free babysitting or a coupon redeemable for dinner delivered to the front door I would weep with gratitude. (Am I giving blatant hints for gift ideas…Yes!)


Other ideas? How do you manage to balance your values, your budget, and multiple birthday parties? Send us your ideas on greener giving and they just might get posted to our site. Email us at’m still far short of perfect when it comes to living my green values. Convenience definitely comes into play, and there are items I buy in big box stores. The difference now is that price isn’t the only concern. If I can think about making better choices, even part of the time, then I’m moving in the right direction.


  1. Hi, I applaud your blog for informing people, very interesting article, keep up it coming 🙂

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