Lexington Minuteman

November 22, 2007

Stumped for holiday gift ideas? Turned of by the stress of shopping in a mad crush and trying to think of gifts for people who have everything? Lexington GWAC has some ideas to help you out! In the spirit of lowering our carbon footprint here in Lexington and in the spirit of giving a gift to our planet, we’ve assembled some thoughts about holiday gifting that both giver and receiver can feel good about.

First of all, less is more. Less consumption, less waste, less spending both of dollars and natural resources. You may remember Bill McKibben’s book “One Hundred Dollar Holiday?” A worthy goal to aim for! Use your imagination for things your special someone would truly appreciate that you don’t have to buy. Give a really personal gift of yourself. Make presents, bake goodies, give creative gift “coupons” for a shift of babysitting, dog-walking, garden help, or a service that uses your special talents or skills, such as computer assistance, a bridge lesson or home improvement help.

Buy locally. Stay away from the big box stores. Support our own merchants, keep our downtown center vital, and help the environment by reducing your car trips. Lexington Center has many shops with great gifts for everyone on your list. Books, crafts, toys, jewelry, clothing, stationery items, original artwork, antiques, and more. Gift certificates to local restaurants are always welcome. The Lexington Arts and Crafts Center’s Annual Holiday Market Place has beautiful things handcrafted by local artisans.

Give things people need and can use. Check out Lexington’s garden centers and farm stands for great usable gifts or gift certificates. Give a share in a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Supermarket items travel an average of 1,500 miles. Supporting local farming operations significantly reduces the energy consumed in putting food on the table. Contact Lexington’s Busa Farms, our own local CSA, for details on their program.

Energy reducing usable gifts include reliable tire-pressure gauges (keeping tires at the manufacturer’s recommended pressure improves mileage, cuts emissions by 15%, and increases the life of your tires), an MBTA Charlie card, fluorescent bulbs, lamps, fixtures (check out energystar.gov), a Kill-a-Watt electricity usage monitor (Amazon.com), or LED flashlights and nightlights. LED Christmas lights greatly reduce the electricity needed to power your Christmas lighting. (Available locally and from the Energy Star catalog.) Or how about a clothesline and clothespins, or a wooden drying rack to help the family cut down on carbon emissions by drying clothes outdoors.

Be creative and look for recycled gifts. Check out the Window Pane second hand shop at the Senior Center for great bargains in like-new used jewelry, scarves, purses, clothes, etc. Look for fleece made from recycled soda bottles, and cards made of post-consumer recycled paper. Check out antique stores for all sorts of original and unusual “recycled” gifts.

Choose gifts made of sustainable materials -- bamboo rather than wood, hemp, organic cotton and wool, natural cosmetics and organic, fair-trade chocolates and coffees. Avoid excessively packaged products. And be creatively environmental about gift-wrapping. Get the kids involved in making your own gift-wrap. Save all gift-wrap and ribbons for re-use next year – it helps both your wallet and the environment, and you’ll be glad to find a ready supply next year.

Make contributions to your favorite charity in your loved one’s name. Some environmental organizations we support are Union of Concerned Scientists, based here in Cambridge, National Resources Defense Council, World Wildlife Foundation, and the Audubon Society.

Of course, if this is the year at your house for really big gifts, a Toyota Prius in the driveway with a red ribbon around it would be very special as well as environmentally responsible (if you promise to re-use the ribbon!) or that longed-for new fancy refrigerator or front loading washing machine (Energy Star, of course!).

Have a happy holiday season filled with the spirit of giving and love – for you and yours and our planet!

Brought to you by Lexington Global Warming Action Coalition. Visit our website at www.lexgwac.org.