From clothes made of bamboo and jewelry recycled from antique tea tins to an acre of primal forest and down-on-the-farm goats and chickens, green gifting is getting easier and more creative with every holiday.
The Sunnan solar-powered lamp sold in 300 Ikea stores worldwide is a case in point.
"At $19.99, the Sunnan is a great gift for everyone," says Mona Liss, Ikea's corporate public relations director. There's an extra dividend, too. "We have partnered with UNICEF, and for every lamp sold, another goes to a child in a developing country."
The stylish solar lamp comes in five brilliant colors, includes a battery that withstands high temperatures and, after charging for nine to 12 hours in the sun, produces four hours of bright light, Liss says.
"The Sunnan enables children to play, read, write and do their homework at night, even if their homes have no electricity."
Available in Ikea stores and online at http://www.ikea.com, the lamp is just part of the plethora of green gifts for the home and garden. "We have eco-conscious items in every department in the store," Liss says.
Intriguing handmade eco-friendly items, including jewelry and home accessories, are also available online from Ten Thousand Villages, a company featuring the work of artisans from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. Visit http://www.TenThousandVillages.com for such treasures as light-as-a-feather dangle earrings made from colorful newspaper pages, exotic bicycle chain bracelets and recycled-paper hot pads. With prices ranging from $8 to $20, these gifts keep your budget afloat while contributing to the communities in which the craftsmen live.
For eco-luxury, Global Ghetto Organics offers men's and women's ready-to-wear made from bamboo, which the company guarantees is "as soft as cashmere but way more durable." Priced from $22, the earth-friendly clothing ranges from T-shirts to thermal tops to dressy casual outfits. Gift friends and relatives with breathable bamboo bucket hats for $35 by visiting http://www.GlobalGhettoOrganics.com. They'll be the talk of the hike.
Nordstrom, the venerable high-end clothing store, offers environmentally friendly apparel and accessories for men, women and children throughout its 173 U.S. outlets and on the Web, at http://shop.nordstrom.com.
"Increasingly, our customers are looking for organic cotton and other sustainable materials," says Pamela Perret, a Nordstrom spokeswoman. In addition to carrying name brands, including Caslon and Eileen Fisher, the chain offers Stem, its own line of green casual wear.
Nordstrom also has been involved in recycling, energy and water conservation, and overall waste reduction for several years. Its strategies reach even into the company's restaurants and coffee bars, where they offer organic teas, fair-trade coffee and some organic produce.
Some of the most thoughtful green gifts require only a simple card. You can give a gift of trees in someone's honor as part of The Nature Conservancy's campaign to save Brazil's Atlantic Forest or help preserve a huge wildlife habitat in the Rocky Mountains with an "adopted acre" in the name of a loved one. Check out these and other options at http://www.nature.org.
Then there's the goat. Available for $75, she'll nourish hungry children and families with up to 16 cups of milk a day, as well provide the main ingredient for cheese and yogurt. This living gift and many others -- including rabbits, ducks, chickens, sheep and alpacas -- may be mixed, matched and shared. Visit http://www.WorldVision.org to peruse an extensive catalog of living options that truly keep on giving.
To achieve the really green gift, you need to consider all the steps that go into eco-conscious giving and receiving, says Jenny Powers, media relations director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a national environmental action group with a membership of 1.2 million.
Shop online, and shop early, she advises. Skipping crowds and avoiding long lines keeps your nerves from frazzling while also eliminating driving and, thereby, pollution.
"And select ground shipping," Powers says. "It is six times more efficient than overnight air shipping, saves on fuel and reduces pollution."
Subscriptions, tickets to a movie, class or favorite sporting match, a service performed by you -- these are also gifts that leave virtually no carbon footprint.
Homemade holiday cookies, candies and your special mango-cranberry chutney don't leave carbon footprints, either, and everyone loves a tasty treat.