The earth-friendliest gifs of all.
What to get the person who has everything? How about a clearer conscience? The donation of an emissions offset certificate lets an organization invest in wind power, hydroelectricity and other sustainable energy sources, as well as tree planting. The investments seek to make up for the effects of an individual's energy use on the global climate, whether it's for a flight, a year of driving or a year of household electricity.
Though the carbon-neutral concept is controversial -- critics have argued that people should just simplify their lifestyles to reduce their carbon footprints -- donating to one of these organizations is certainly a greener option than, say, buying a gadget.
At Carbonfund.org, based in Silver Spring, $99 covers an individual's annual carbon dioxide emissions, while $396 carbon-neutralizes a family of four. TerraPass, another popular carbon offset service, offers gift certificates in increments of $10 and packages based on its flight and driving calculators. If you really want to be pious, why not add a small donation for yourself to cover the emissions caused by your holiday travel and shopping?
What could be greener than having seeds sown in a loved one's name? One option we like is Oxfam America Unwrapped, the online "gift store" of Oxfam America, the domestic branch of the global anti-poverty organization. For $30, Oxfam will plant 50 trees; a $120 donation will help start a crop of quinoa, a grain popular among early Incas, giving an economic and nutritional boost to an indigenous community in the developing world.
Whether it's a babysitting voucher or a hand-drawn gift certificate for unlimited foot massages or housecleaning, a gift of your time and services is as green as it gets. After all, it's the thought that counts.
Food for thought: This innovative system gives a person or family a share in a nearby small farm, which entitles them to regular pickup or delivery of an assortment of fresh-picked, locally grown and usually organic vegetables and fruits.
Some memberships are year-round, while others are seasonal (usually a few months in summer or winter, depending on what the farm grows). Some require the member to pick up food baskets at locations in the District, Maryland or Virginia; others offer weekly home delivery. Prices start at around $200 for a season's worth of produce for two people -- not an inexpensive stocking stuffer, but it's a gift that keeps on giving.
Instead of CDs -- whose jewel cases are made of polluting plastic -- give the music lover in your life a gift certificate to iTunes or another online music service. Or, for a more memorable option, hit secondhand stores for vintage vinyl LPs (and an old record player, if the recipient doesn't have one). Classical records, in particular, are easy to find; many thrift shops stock them for less than a dollar apiece.
One downside to charitable giving is that the recipient often doesn't get to see where the donation goes. Kiva, an online microloan portal, is different: The organization partners with local lenders to direct small loans to Third World entrepreneurs, whose photos and background stories are shown on the site.
If a grocer in Cambodia needs $1,000, for instance, you can chip in as little as $25 (printable gift certificates are available). Donors (or the gift certificate recipient) can post mini profiles, Facebook-style, linked to the entrepreneurs' pages. And once the entrepreneur pays off the loan, the donor gets the money back -- and can pass on the loan to someone else.