The staff at YES! share their favorite sustainable gift ideas.
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• My family had an old Nintendo sitting broken for over a decade. I found an article on how to fix it. I sneakily stole it from them, fixed it up, and gave it back to them. I’m not sure if they still use it, but I know they enjoyed it for a while. I imagine you could do this for any broken item sitting in someone’s garage. An old bike, a television, a radio, etc. They get a “new” thing without wasting all of the resources that go along with making a new item. —Jon
Go Local, Way Over There
• What to get for my not-particularly-green in-laws across the continent? From an online list of farmers market participants for their small Connecticut town, I found a family farm producing free-range cattle, Four Mile River Farm. I called them up, and asked if they would put together a collection of frozen cuts of their beef as a present to be picked up. They were so happy to do it, and I think my inlaws made new friends. —Tracy
• Small concerts. The public radio station that serves the gift receiver’s town will have a calendar of the more interesting small concerts passsing through, and information for how to order tickets. You can inflict your own taste onto your friends.
• Membership to a local public radio station. Art museum memberships often come with free tickets and advance screenings for big events.
Just for Me
• My favorite gift still is a CD that a friend made for me. I like music, but don’t really know a lot about it, and he is a DJ. So I felt like a V.I.P. getting this personal music selection. And somehow he just hit it right and I have been listening to it for years now. —Lilja
• I have a friend who makes her own gifts, and my favorite is a flannel pillowcase with different colorful fabrics for the body and the border pieces. Not only are they beautiful and comfy, but I think of her every night when I go to bed! The perfect gift for someone you care about. —Sharon
• One year I bought picture frames from the thrift store—many of them were beat up and ugly and funny looking. I bought a set of paints from the art store, and took some old magazines, books, and articles, and clipped out quotes that I though would speak to the recipients of the gifts. I repainted all the frames in bright colors and then used decoupage to paste on the quotes and then painted a finish over top of the whole thing. So my father-in-law (chemist) got a frame with a quote from Einstein (“Imagination is more powerful than knowledge.”) My sister-in-law (environmentalist) got a frame with a Rachel Carson quote and leaves painted on it. —Madeline
• If I use wrapping paper, I prefer to use handmade papers by local artists, or re-use gift bags & ribbons I’ve stashed aside for the year. In past years, I’ve made wrapping paper, with re-used paper bags decorated with hand-carved potato and eraser stamps. —Susan
• For people with kids, rechargeable batteries and chargers.
• Garage sale garden tools, cleaned with steelwool and sharpened.
• Used books
• I once gave a friend a series of yoga classes. She could not or did not want to afford them at the time, but I knew she loved doing it. That way we went together and ended up seeing each other every week. Often we went out together after class, and I have lot’s of fun memories of those evenings. —Lilja
Getting Them Out
• My 80-year-old mother always used to take a walk in the morning in her neighborhood. After she fell in a parking lot and broke her arm, she both realized the need to improve her balance and worried about being out walking alone. I asked her what would get her out exercising more, and she said “a membership to the fitness center at the local Community College.” With that gift, she has access to an indoor walking track and strength and flexibility classes, and year round indoor temperature comfort. And she’s been using it and loving it. —Audrey
• I have a niece and a nephew, each of whom is married with small children. They don’t get much chance to go out on a date together, so we give them a gift certificate to a favorite local restaurant. They’ve appreciated the extra incentive to have an evening for just the two of them. —Fran
Of Course!• The Greenest Gift: The YES! Holiday Package
No shopping malls. No bubble wrap. And a great way to share your values.
YES! is a frugal and low-impact gift, printed on 100% post-consumer-waste paper. And our 2008 holiday package also included our NEW tote.