Monday, November 8, 2010

Holiday Tips

Use Recycled Paper Gift Wrap
By Brian Clark Howard
This holiday season, cut down on waste and save resources by choosing recycled and alternative fiber paper for your gift-wrapping needs.
During the holidays, Americans will send nearly 2 billion cards and use more than 38,000 miles of ribbon. Then there's gift wrap. Between Thanksgiving and New Year's, the average American household increases its trash output by 25%, resulting in 5 million extra tons of garbage. According to the Carnegie Mellon Green Practices initiative, "If every American family wrapped just three presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields."
So what to do? Instead of buying any old wrapping paper, pick up some made from recycled paper or alternative, tree-free fibers like hemp. You'll be surprised how beautiful new designs are.
Or, get a little crafty and repurpose what you have around the house. Wrap presents in old posters, magazine and newspaper pages or paper bags. 
View eco-friendly gift-wrapping options and get some green wrapping tips.
How to Give Without Giving "Stuff"

Plant a Tree in His/Her Name
Dedicate a city tree in his or her name at TreePeople, a nonprofit organization offering sustainable solutions to urban ecosystem problems. Gift certificates range from $25-$100 at, 1-818-753-4600.

Give a (Volunteer) Vacation
Make the next vacation be about more than sipping cocktails or gazing at historic architecture. Volunteer vacations are a chance to give back to local communities, restore and protect local ecosystems or otherwise help out while enjoying a holiday. The testimonials from vacationers tell the tale: They can be more satisfying and offer a greater sense of renewal than even the most relaxing getaways. Learn more at

Adopt a Sea Creature
Oceana works to protect the oceans and its denizens through science, litigation and advocacy. You can support the organization by adopting one of the sea creatures the group fights to protect — a dolphin, shark, polar bear, penguin, octopus or sea turtle. $35-$150 at

Give a Soldier a Cell Phone
With the U.S. waging two wars, thousands of troops will be away from home during the holidays. A great way to give them a gift is to donate a cell phone — even a used cell phone — to an organization likeCell Phones for Soldiers, which sells the phones to recyclers, and uses the proceeds to buy calling cards troops use to call home.

Feed an Elephant for a Day
Help a former zoo or circus elephant load up his trunk and find peace at Tennessee's Elephant Sanctuary -- a licensed refuge designed specifically for elephants rescued after being abandoned or abused. Feed an elephant for a day for just $30, or purchase an acre for that elephant for $1,400. Learn more at, 1-931-796-6500.

Prepare an Organic Meal
Do the shopping, seat your guests and prepare a delicious meal made with organic and seasonal ingredients. What's better than the gift of good food and good company?

Clean Water (For Someone Who Needs It)
Charity Water, a non-profit organization bringing clean, safe water to people in developing nations, now offers "Bottle Of Charity." Your $20 pays for water and sanitation projects that will provide third world citizens clean water for -- at least -- 20 years! Learn more at, 1-646-688-2323.

National Parks Annual Pass
Help others see the America's natural beauty through a Federal Recreational Lands Pass, which allows your recipient (plus a vehicle and 3 additional adults) free entrance for one year to America's National parks and other public lands. $80 at, 1-888-ASK USGS.

Donate Winter Clothes
Every gift doesn't have to be for someone you know. Many people have closets full of old clothes that aren't doing them any good. Why not take an hour away from shopping and put it into sorting clothes?
Look for local community coat drives, church thrift shops, organizations that outfit low-income people for job interviews, or other charitable organizations that help the homeless or others in need. Make it into a personal gift by offering to help organize a cluttered friend's closet.

Green Clean Their Home
Give the gift of a clean house, cleansed with homemade or nontoxic products. A great gift idea for a do-it-yourself enthusiast or recent college graduate to show you really care.

Charity Gift Card
Still not sure what to get them this holiday season? Tis Best partners with more than 200 certified nonprofits so you can give a "charity of choice" gift certificate, allowing recipients to donate anywhere from $10 to $200 to a favorite charity. The colorful gift cards make great last-minute gifts and stocking stuffers. Learn more at, 1-206-501-3005.

Plant a Billion Trees
The Nature Conservancy is responsible for preserving scenic and ecologically important land around the world. The non-profit land trust has three gift options this year that allow you to help plant a billion trees in Brazil's Atlantic Forest, adopt an acre in Las Californias, U.S. or coral reefs in Palau, or a number of other unique gift options. $10 and up at

Adopt a Polar Bear
As global warming causes the polar bear's delicate ice habitat to shrink, you can help with the World Wildlife Fund's, "Adopt a Polar Bear Gift," a cuddly plush polar bear. Proceeds go to support polar bear conservation efforts. $50-$250 at, 1-800-225-5993.

Preserve an Acre of Rainforest
Make a donation in your loved one's name. For $100, you can protect one acre of rain forest with the Rainforest Alliance , one of 88 environmental charities that is rated with four stars by Charity Navigator . Consult the independent watchdog's list of most financially responsible environmental organizations before making a donation to the cause of your choice.

Make a Micro Loan
Donations are one way to give in your loved one's name, but micro loans are a more personal way to support projects you care about. Micro loans allow you to loan money to specific people, projects or organizations working on a variety of issues and problems, mostly in the third world. You earn interest, just like any loan (and accept the reportedly low risk of default) — and see exactly how your money benefits others.For more information, or to make a loan in the name of a friend or family member, start by exploring Kiva, MicroPlace or BlueOrchard.

Offset Their Carbon
Put a spring in their step by taking 10 tons off their back. With a 10-ton gift card from, you invest in clean energy to offset almost a year's worth of your loved one's carbon emissions. $100 for 10 tons or $20 for two tons at

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