Black Friday signaled the start of the holiday shopping adventure for many of us. This year, make all of your gift purchases eco-friendly and socially responsible. Concentrate on keeping the dollars you spend within your local community, especially in these hard economic times. A lot of money changes hands during the holidays and every dollar is opportunity to do some good.
Gift Giving Tips and Gift Ideas
Sometimes we give gifts that are hardly used or appreciated, out of habit or just to "have something to give." This year, avoid those useless items and give things that require more thought than wrapping, more time than dollars. Focus on stuff needing little or no packaging, be conscious of how items are made and how far they are shipped, and commit to the steps that are part of the Simplify the Holidays Campaign. Here are some principles to guide responsible buying, along with some suggested products.
Give gifts that give. We all have those people on our lists who are impossible to buy the perfect gift for. Rather than stressing over a present that will spend its lifetime in the closet, give a gift that gives. Adopt a wild animal, help preserve a rainforest, or give foreign farmers a financial boost all in the name of your giftee.
- Hawai'i Wildlife Fund Adoption. Choose from a list of endangered and protected marine animals that call our islands home. With each adoption you'll receive a certificate and a photo of your adopted animal. For $20 to $25 you can adopt a hawksbill sea turtle or green sea turtle hatchling. Learn more at WildHawaii.org.
Certificates, passes, and coupons. Gift certificates, passes to a local attraction, or discount coupons are a great way to minimize waste. Purchase certificates at a favorite eatery, store, or watering hole of your friend or family member. This helps ensure that your gift gets used, unlike some of the dust-collecting trinkets left after the holidays have passed.
- National Park Passes. Giving year memberships to some or all of Hawaii's National Parks not only gives the recipient the opportunity to enjoy these wonderful places year round; it also funds the upkeep and ongoing projects within these protected areas.
Buy local. Buying local not only keeps more dollars in the local economy (between $0.16 and $0.32 more of every $1.00 spend, depending on the product), but also cuts emissions and other waste related to shipping, hauling, and packing imported items.
- Local Brews. Many locals have made a habit of drinking Heineken (product of Europe) and Steinlager (product of New Zealand). Our islands are home to some tasty micro brews, including Mehana, Kona, and Molokai Brewing Companies. Also try spirits like Maui Dark Rum and Hawaii Organic OCEAN Vodka.
Buy regional. Within that broad category of buy local, smaller regions can offer specialties that make great gifts. Producers using resources from the communities where they live have a special, vested interest in preserving their environment.
- Organic Kona Coffee. It is well known that Kona coffee beans are some of the most treasured in the world. Less appreciated is the effort Kona organic coffee farmers make to protect the environment. The 100% organic, shade grown beans from Kona Rainforest Coffee are a personal favorite and delightful indulgence. Their Estate Select Grade (16 ounce bag) for $30 is available at local stores and online, at KonaRainforest.com.
Make gifts or buy hand made. Channel your inner Martha Stewart and make personalized gifts. Be it cookies, casseroles, sweaters, or greeting cards, gifts are always more precious when made by someone you love.
- Etsy. If you're not the type to make a handmade gift yourself, turn to the many sellers on Etsy.com. This site is an online marketplace for just about everything handmade and/or vintage. Search for those crafters who are located in Hawaii (there are quite a few).
Give eco fashion. Many people joke about this being the only time of year they get socks and undies. This Christmas, go organic. Organic cotton is super soft and ups the “comfy factor” of any piece of apparel. For items below the top drawer, check out brands like Del Forte Denim, Edun, Simple Shoes, Patagonia, and more.
- Organic Cotton Tees. The tee shirt is the staple to every local's wardrobe here in Hawaii. While once a rarity, organic cotton tees can be found year-round from a wide variety of sources. For a little local flare, try tees from Hawaii-based Organik Clothing. Find local stockists and browse their collections at TheOrganik.com.
Help friends go green. Use this gift giving opportunity to turn your giftees on to the crazy green products and services you already enjoy. If given as a gift, people are usually more open-minded about trying new things.
- Garden Starters. Help others get started with growing their own food. Give certified organic seed packs and/or seedlings from your local garden store or farmer's market. Try Seeds of Change certified organic seed packs for $2.79, at local stores and SeedsOfChange.com.
Don't be shy, re-gift. Face it, we've all been driven to wasteful excess at times out of fear of offending gift givers. Break the cycle by letting people know it is okay to re-gift your Christmas gift if they won't use it - that way they can find it another home, guilt free.
The greatest gift of all: Think long term and keep the principles above in mind throughout the upcoming year. By next Christmas you'll have mastered the art of shopping green and responsibly, spreading island-style holiday goodness year round.
BONUS: 10 Green Stocking Stuffers Under $25
- Staple-free Stapler. Saving the world one (less) staple at a time, this little device is great for binding small amounts of paper. It's as easy to use as a hole-punch and costs only $6.95 at CB2.com.
- Klean Kanteen. Offered in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and lid options, the Klean Kanteen reusable water bottle is great for anyone on your list. Starting at $14.95. Kleen Kanteen is also a proud member of 1% For The Planet.
- Envirosax. Get everyone you know to switch to a reusable shopping bag. Wether it be for groceries, new shoes or books, these stylish bags get the job done, again and again. Available at Envirosax.com in a style that's right for each person on your list at $8.50 each.
- Gift of Green. For $9.95, BeGreen plants one native tree in an ecosystem restoration project in the U.S. and sends your giftee a plantable ornament and a card telling them about the environmental benefits of their tree. For a local alternative try Evolution Sage the only organization in the world developing and supplying carbon offsets from projects right here in the Hawaiian Islands.
- Ecoist Coin Pouch. Made from recycled candy wrappers, these durable little purses are perfect for carrying your essentials. Available in a variety of colors with a lauhala like weave, at Ecoist.com, for $22. Ecoist has partnered with Trees for the Future to plant one tree for every bag they sell, bonus.
- iTunes. Give gift certificates or specific movies, songs, and more. All this without creating waste. Your purchases can be emailed directly to any recipient's inbox. Step it up by making a selection that promotes awareness like the movie "An Inconvenient Truth" for $14.99. Just click "Gift This Movie" on iTunes.
- Plant-Me Pet. Not quite a Chia Pet, the Plant-Me Pet is fun for kids and adults - think "humorous office grab-bag gift." Play with it, stare at it, whatever, and then plant it head-first in a pot of soil. With a little water and sunlight, you'll have fresh melons, tomatoes, or pumpkins. Available at select locations or online at BranchHome.com, for $20.
- Beeswax Candles. Volcano Island Honey Company, LLC, has been tops on the lists of local green gifters for years, but did you know the makers of Rare Hawaiian Organic White Honey also make beautiful pure beeswax candles? Pick up a pair for $12 at VolcanoIslandHoney.com or, in some cases, where their honeys can be found.
- Micro Solar LED Light. You know those annoying little squeeze lights that people attach to their keychains . . . the ones that start to dim in a matter of weeks? Well, this little item is the exception. It's the smallest self-powered LED light, complete with mini solar panel on one side and mini (booger-checking) mirror on the other side. Find it at Compact-Impact.com for $21.
- Eco Golf Tees. Perfect for all those golf enthusiasts in your office, Eco Golf tees are made from corn and are biodegradable. Get one thousand 2 1/4 inch tees for $25 at EcoGolf.com or call 1-888-326-3003 for a list of retailers.
Keana Okuda is a guest writer for Kanu Hawaii. She is a graphic designer, weekly columnist, entrepreneur, and founder of TheEcoBoss.com. She was born and raised on the island of Hawaii and is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles.