We’ve shared ideas for greener gifts before, but wanted to freshen them up for 2014. If you’re looking for fun multimedia gifts (and treats!) to share with your nearest and dearest this holiday giftgiving season, have we got some picks for YOU. At a variety of price points, available online, in kitchens or on bookshelves, here’s a few of our favorite ways to spread the enviro-themed merry!
Giving a tin of homemade cookies and sweets is a great way to keep it green this holiday. But, let's face it, desserts generally fall short of the sustainable yardstick. (I'm lookin' at you, chocolate.) If you are out west in the citrus growing regions of California and Arizona, winter is prime lemon season. And when life gives you a bounty of lemons, make lemon bars! Here in the northeast it's cranberry season. Why not whip up a batch of cranberry bars to give to a loved one?
- Katie Sweetman
For “Serial” Lovers
Share your favorite podcast.
Looking for a fun (and free!) gift for that foodie who has everything? Share Gastropod! They delve into the hidden history and surprising science behind food and farming topics from Dan Barber’s look at ecosystem cuisine to Soylent, the food replacement drink (yum?).
- Dawn Brighid
How about a farm-to-table restaurant gift certificate ? Supporting family-owned restaurants with sustainable philosophies is a great way to help grow your local food scene and contribute to your local economy. Bonus: helping farmers who rely on restaurants to make ends meet. Search the Eat Well Guide to find a restaurant in your neighborhood.
- Dawn Brighid
For Mind of a Chef fans
Give a beautiful cookbook! Share one of the Ottolenghi cookbooks and you will be sure to inspire some home-cooking. The books are not only gorgeous to look at, but the recipes are interesting and highlight vegetables as the star! Too bad some of us may have to wait out the winter to get back to the farmers’ market. (California, we’re jealous!)
- Gabrielle Blavatsky
For Pork Lovers
A virtual porcine stocking stuffer! New York’s Jimmy Carbone, owner of the legendary Jimmy’s 43 and the man behind the Pig Island festival, has authored an e-book, I Like Pig, that features recipes from New York area pig farming families. At $1.99, you can afford to throw in a gift certificate to your local butcher, too.
- Leslie Hatfield
For Your Favorite Fisher-Person
The holiday season likely conjures thoughts of turkey, pie and copious amount of cinnamon, so may I suggest you take a little break and cozy up with a book about fish ? According to Paul Greenberg’s great new book American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood, most in the US don’t give much thought to where their fish comes from. (Hint: Your New Years’ Eve shrimp cocktail was not caught by a burly fisherman in a yellow slicker.) Today, the US has some of the best-managed fisheries in the world, but we’ve switched to importing 90 percent of our seafood and often from nations that are fishing in highly unsustainable ways. This has had a calamitous effect on not just America’s fishing communities, but also on the health of global fish stocks and shoreline habitats that incubate a vast amount of marine life. The book isn’t just a downer, though, thanks to Greenberg’s fascinating global travels and his straightforward call to arms for the nearly 40 percent of US residents who live near the coast: eat American seafood. (Here’s one way to get started!)
- Peter Hanlon
For News and Music Junkies
Consider making a gift of support to a favorite news/music station . I’m a news junkie. I’m also a music junkie. That means I’m constantly listening to streaming services and podcasts on my pocket computer (smart phone). For others with the same condition, a nice gift can be a monetary donation to their favorite listener-supported station(s). A few bucks to their faves can satisfy their hankering, help sustain the station and promote good holiday cheer. And here’s a clean, green bonus: Since it’s a digital gift, there’s no “stuff” that wears out or packaging to throw away.
- Kai Olson-Sawyer
For Daytrippers, Instagrammers and Viners
My sustainable gift idea: a travel photography jaunt . I assemble a little gift pack – say, a couple of tickets on Metro North to someplace in the Hudson Valley (a beautiful train ride), a little bag of snacks to take on the trip (homemade treats, delish), a tourist map so travelers know what they’re passing along the way and (if they’re not smartphone users or are looking to unplug) a disposable camera for some old-timey picture taking. It’s easy to assemble, not crazy expensive and provides a day of fun without driving.
- Robin Madel
For Fractivists and Energy Nerds
If you have a friend or relative interested in current energy issues, I recommend The Boom by Wall Street Journal energy reporter Russell Gold. Subtitled, "How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World," the book covers the rise of the process of hydraulic fracturing shale formations in the United States and how it’s affecting American lives. He begins with his own parents’ dilemma about whether to allow fracking on their rural piece of land in Pennsylvania and goes on to chronicle the rise and fall of Chesapeake Energy’s founder Aubrey McClendon. Gold does an excellent job of covering a controversial topic, explaining the technology and providing personal stories throughout the book.
- James Rose
For Cinematographers and Climate Advocates
Years of Living Dangerously is so well-shot that you’re going to want to enjoy it on the best, highest-resolution screen possible, making it a great gift for home theater or Apple TV users. If you’re buying for someone into nature, science, history or political docs, I recommend gifting them the Emmy-winning first season. Whether you’re a longtime enviro advocate or just want to know what all the fuss is about as to climate issues, each episode is engaging. Ian Somerhalder fans are sure to approve as he is one of the series’ correspondents, along with Jessica Alba, Harrison Ford, Matt Damon and Olivia Munn. (We also featured climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe in Our Heroes series.) The real stars here are people from, literally, all over the world who share their experiences and stories – talk about connecting the dots! (Check out this overview of Season 1 and heroes interview with executive producers to get a sense of the series so far.) It’s available to purchase on DVD and Amazon streaming services.
- Kristen Demaline
For App-Loving Millennials and Those Who Love Clean Plates
Apps like Food Waste Diary are a great way to keep track of the food you waste, and Fresh Pantry tracks expiration dates. When you send the app along, you can remind the gift recipient that most “use-by” dates are basically use-less, and the app helps keep track of items in the fridge. (If you’re interested, we have a larger list of helpful food waste apps .)
I also use Environmental Working Group’s recently released Food Scores app almost every time I have a question about safety and sustainability in the grocery store – so it’s basically open the minute I walk through the doors. EWG’s Skin Deep cosmetic database is just as helpful when trying to figure out products’ safety and ingredients’ sourcing.
In case you’re wondering how one “gives” an app: the iTunes App Store has a gift option on an app’s individual page. For Android users, send a Google Play gift card along with recommendations on the apps to get. Gift cards are great for any smartphone user so there is extra money to use towards the next Angry Birds, Candy Crush or recipe apps.
- James Saracini
For Kids, Gardeners and Cooks
Want to give a physical gift? For the kiddos, check out this list of less toxic toys from small green businesses . For the grownups on your list, Cooking Up a Story’s new online store has a lot of charming and cozy items, from handmade pottery to goat pillows! (And your gift will help support some of the best food and agriculture videos around.) For the gardener on your list, consider a sampling of heirloom seeds from Hudson Valley Seed Library – their seeds always come in beautiful, collectible packs, and what better gift than the beginnings of next year’s harvest?
- Leslie Hatfield