Gift giving reaches its zenith in December, which means the season of conspicuous waste is upon us. Winter holidays tend to be riddled with indulgence, over spending and high eco impact gifts. So many of the gifts that tempt us in the chain stores and malls are made irresponsibly (read sweatshops or unhealthy working conditions), contain ingredients that harm both our bodies and the environment, or come with a lot of excess packaging.
I spoke with Lydia Zepeda, a professor of consumer science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for her suggestions for greener gifts. “Gifts should reflect your values as well as the people you are giving the gifts to,” she says. “Gifts like organic cotton are good for the environment and have an element of social justice because of the way organic cotton is produced. In terms of beauty products, gifting ones free of parabens and phthalates is both good for the person’s health as well as the environment.” (The skin, the largest organ in the body, absorbs and stores the toxins in personal care products in your cells.) Giving a gift doesn’t have to be a burden on our bodies—or the planet. Here are some of my favorite great green gift ideas.
Conventional cotton is actually one of the world’s dirtiest crops, requiring large amounts of toxic fertilizers. Organic cotton is grown without any of these pollutants and is now available in almost every traditional cotton product—from bed sheets to swaddles to wipes to blue jeans. Organic cotton, whatever form, is a gift that says thoughtful through and through.
Moisturizing and soothing, skincare products such as Alaffia’s made with sustainably harvested shea butter is a great way to give—and give back. Shea butter nuts, which are grown in West Africa, are an important export in danger of being exploited. Alaffia sources shea butter from women-dominated shea butter cooperatives that help alleviate poverty and support gender equality. The shea butter is incorporated into clean, toxin-free skin products, made without artificial ingredients. Soap, baby balms or any kind of moisturizer that contains shea are sure to be welcome additions to anyone’s skincare regimen.
Fair trade tea
Fair Trade Certified tea comes from both cooperatives as well as large farms. Not only is it delicious, it helps tea farmers and workers gain access to capital, set fair prices for their products and make democratic decisions about how to best improve their business, their community and their tea. And fair trade tea also tends to be organic as well, making for better cuppa all around. Companies such as Hampstead Tea produce organic, biodynamic and fair trade tea grown in harmony with the area’s natural ecological system. Plus, it’s hard to go wrong with tea, especially tea that makes such a conscious statement of both personal and global nurture.