9 Christmas Gifts You Can Give to Your Mother ... Earth
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You'll read a lot this time of year about "green" gift guides. But are solar-powered cell phone chargers really the greenest gift we can come up with? Sure they save electricity, but what about the environmental impact of their manufacturing and shipping? If you really want to do something good this holiday season, what about putting Mother Earth at the top of your shopping list? It may help clean up the air and water, cut down on CO2 emissions, and it will save you a trip to the mall.
1. Stay Home
One of the best things you can do for the planet is fix up your own nest with holiday cheer and enjoy the festivities with loved ones near by. Airline travel is one of the biggest parts of our carbon footprint, and buses, cars and trains have big impacts as well.
As the Low Impact Living blog points out:
Our leisure travel by car alone accounts for over 9 billion gallons of fuel and 90 millions tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) each year. Air travel tacks on 140-plus million tons more of CO2. That's a huge amount of CO2 emissions -- taken together it represents more than the entire annual emissions of countries like Venezuela or the Netherlands!
To put this all in a personal context, if you drove roundtrip from Los Angeles to Kansas City, you'd put out 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), whereas if you flew, you'd be responsible for 2.2 tons. If you took a train, you'd contribute 0.9 tons. For you international vagabonds, if you flew from Los Angeles to Paris, you'd have put out 4.4 tons of CO2 (and yes, we know you can't drive).
Even if you recycle all your wrapping paper, you'll be hard-pressed to make up for a ton of travel miles.
2. Save a Tree
While some can make a case for the environmental benefits of tree farms, if you celebrate Christmas, think about planting a tree instead of cutting one down (or more likely, paying someone to fell it for you and truck it to the city or town where you live). There are lots of great programs abroad and in your own community. The environmental advocacy group NRDC supports a rain-forest restoration program in Costa Rica, where for just $10 you can have a tree planted. You can also make the donation in someone's name as a gift, too.
While there are a bunch of programs like this, I also think it's great to do something in your own community. Here in San Francisco, we've got an amazing group called Friends of the Urban Forest, which plants groups of trees that help clean up and green up neighborhoods. Most cities and many towns have similar programs. While you may not get to decorate these trees, you can enjoy them day after day.
3. Invest in Sustainability
The holiday season is prime fundraising time for thousands of worthy organizations, and while it is great donate to the ones that you support, you can also put your money where your heart is in another way. Consider making an investment in a community instead of a donation. The organization MicroPlace makes this super easy by giving you the opportunity to make small investments -- or loans -- to help lift people out of poverty. To a person living on a dollar a day, $20 or $50 of capital can mean the chance to build or expand small businesses and ensure income for their family. The best part is your money comes back to you over time, and you can invest again, and the gift keeps going.