green living

The only thing that is truly certain in this life is that all of us will die. We don’t know when or how, but we do know that ultimately we cannot avoid death. Impermanence and death are inevitable and universal parts of life.

Rather than live in denial or in fear of that fact (as so many people do), we should strive to face it and prepare for it to the extent that we can. That way, we can have a role in trying to ensure that our end of life experience and our post-death legacy are in keeping with our values and that our loved ones know what we want and won’t have to muddle through all of our death care decisions and post-death details and arrangements without any of our guidance when they are in the process of grieving.

Each of us has an impact on our environment not just during our life, but after our death. Conventional modern burials and cremation both have significant negative impacts on the environment. Death is natural, but the ways our modern society usually processes dead bodies is far from natural (or benign). Embalming fluid is a toxic mix of formaldehyde, benzene (both of which are carcinogens), and methanol. (Some shocking stats: Embalmers have a 13% higher death rate, 8 times higher risk of leukemia, and 3 times higher risk of ALS than the general population. Sources: See link at the end of this paragraph.) Caskets and vaults use vast quantities of natural resources, such as wood (including tropical hardwoods), steel, copper, bronze, and/or concrete, and can leach iron, lead, zinc, and cobalt into the soil. Meanwhile, cremation involves using a lot of energy (burning fossil fuels) to reach a temperature of 1900 degrees F for more than 2 hours, which produces considerable CO2 emissions. Cremation also releases mercury—a dangerous neurotoxin—into the air (due to the incineration of people’s silver dental fillings), as well as other by-product air pollutants (e.g., dioxins, nitrogen oxide, and particulates). For additional impacts and statistics, click here.

Fortunately, alternatives to conventional burial and cremation are now available in many areas, as the interest in natural burial is growing. Increasingly, people are opting to be buried without being embalmed (or else being embalmed using non-toxic, biodegradable fluids, or temporarily preserved using dry ice); wrapped in a shroud or kept in a biodegradable casket or container; and buried in a natural setting (rather than in the typical mowed and manicured lawn cemetery that uses toxic herbicides, fertilizers, and pesticides), where their body and its nutrients can decompose into the earth (dust to dust), allowing them to contribute to new life. An added bonus is that natural burial options are often considerably less expensive than conventional casket (or vault) burials.

The Green Burial Council certifies funeral products, services (funeral homes), and cemeteries and burial grounds that meet their criteria. While definitions of “green” can vary, these are their general criteria: “The Green Burial Council believes cemeteries, preserves, and burial grounds can broadly be considered green if they meet the following criteria: caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact that aids in the conservation of natural resources, reduction of carbon emissions, protection of worker health, and the restoration and/or preservation of habitat. Green burial necessitates the use of non-toxic and biodegradable materials, such as caskets, shrouds, and urns. Hybrid, natural, and conservation cemeteries choosing to follow these basic guidelines fall under the general category of green cemeteries, as opposed to conventional lawn cemeteries that require concrete, plastic or other vaults or liners, and allow embalmed bodies and exotic wood or metal caskets.”

For specific details on their certification criteria for burial products, services, and venues, check out the Green Burial Council’s Standards.

You can find a list of certified providers and products on the Green Burial Council’s website. You can also find providers listed at AGreenerFuneral.org.

Other innovative natural burial options are emerging, including human composting (accelerated decomposition; see Recompose below), using mushroom mycelium to help cleanse bodies of toxins to prevent them from leaching toxins into the ground (see Infinity Burial Suit below), and an egg-shaped biodegradable burial pod (see Capsula Mundi below).

 

Green burial resources:

And these are other useful resources on related issues of death, death care, and end of life:

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August 20, 2019
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This is a selected listing of some of our posts on topics that are directly related to social and political action or activism:

 

Also see the daily news posts on our Facebook page.

 

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July 15, 2019
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Each day, we post 1 or 2 morsels of illuminating information or inspiration on The Green Spotlight’s Facebook Page. If you have a Facebook account, we hope you’ll click on the page’s Like button (if you haven’t already “Liked” or “Followed” the page) and Share the page with some friends.

Please visit the Page to get a sense of the various topics that it covers. We hope you’ll share some of our links. To make sure that Facebook will continue to show you our posts on your Facebook homepage/newsfeed, visit our page regularly and give a thumbs-up to (“Like”) your favorite posts.

 

Here’s a sampling of some topics that we’ve highlighted on the page over the last month or so, including both good news and bad:

  • The cost of renewables has plummeted, making renewable energy the cheapest to produce
  • Tips for keeping your house/building cool and saving energy (and money) on hot days
  • State of New York passes bill with most ambitious climate targets in the country
  • Heat waves and droughts are killing people and other animals (and causing widespread misery) in India and other parts of the world
  • China, the U.S., and Russia spend the most on fossil fuel industry subsidies (the U.S. spends more on these subsidies than on the Pentagon budget, and 10 times more than it spends on education)
  • Three former Republican EPA chiefs say the current Administration and Agency are undermining science, an approach that will have “catastrophic” results
  • People are ingesting 50,000-70,000 microplastics each year (a credit card’s worth of plastic each week), as our plastic garbage has broken down into tiny pieces and entered the food chain
  • Large cruise lines’ major pollution and illegal dumping of waste into the ocean (e.g., Carnival’s cruise ships pollute more than all of Europe’s cars combined)
  • Air pollution can cause dementia and neurological problems and can damage every organ in the body
  • Videos, photos, quotations, etc.

 

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June 26, 2019
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These are “things” that I care deeply about and that I believe truly matter and are worth standing up for, protecting, and supporting (in addition to one’s own circles of friends, family, and community):

– A life-sustaining climate
– Clean (unpolluted) air, water, soil/land, and food
– Democracy
– Equality
– Liberty, freedom, self-determination, bodily autonomy, choice
– Truth, facts
– Justice, fairness, accountability
– Human rights, civil rights, voting rights, women’s rights, reproductive rights, indigenous rights/sovereignty
– Animal rights
– Wild lands, healthy ecosystems, natural habitat, biodiversity, wildlife, endangered species, rights of nature
– Disabled, ill, vulnerable, afflicted, homeless, or impoverished people
– Empathy, compassion, kindness, mercy (without borders)
– Reducing unnecessary suffering
– Non-violence; non-violent protest and dissent; de-escalation of conflict
– Basic decency and respect: the Golden Rule (“Do unto others…”)
– Integrity, ethics, courage
– Dignity, self-restraint, magnanimity, humility
– Affordable, universal healthcare (including mental healthcare)
– A free/independent press; investigative journalism; an informed citizenry
– Science; and science-based, evidence-based policy and decision-making
– Education, critical thinking, reason, wisdom
– The Common Good

I recommend giving some real thought to your own values and priorities (and desired legacy), and sharing your own mini-manifesto or values/mission statement with others.

As Elie Wiesel so wisely said:

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering…  We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

It’s important for people to show and tell other people what they stand for and will stand up for (and not only the things we stand against).

That said, the opposite of many of the things listed above are things that I stand against, e.g.,:

pollution; the production, use, and dumping of toxins and toxic waste (including nuclear); fossil fuel extraction and burning; authoritarianism, fascism, white supremacy/nationalism, theocracy; hatred, dehumanization, discrimination, racism, sexism, misogyny, patriarchy, anti-semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia; extreme income inequality, exploitation, unequal pay; scapegoating (e.g., of immigrants, people of color, and poor people); violence (including child abuse, domestic violence, violence against women, violence against protestors), war-mongering; police brutality, excessive force, abuse of power, mass incarceration, discriminatory judicial decisions and sentencing, victim blaming; corruption, greed, oligarchy, predatory and exploitative capitalism, money hoarding, wealth redistribution from the poor and middle class to the wealthy, materialism and over-consumption, industry (private profit-driven) influence/control over policies, regulations, and laws; selfish individualism and personal entitlement at the expense of the health or well-being of others (e.g., neighbors, humanity, future generations, other species, etc.); gerrymandering, voter suppression and disenfranchisement, election hacking and fraud, ballot tampering; propaganda, lying, disinformation, misinformation, “information warfare,” smears, anti-science sentiment and policy, disproven conspiracy theories, paranoia, fear-mongering, denial of facts, willful/proud ignorance, hypocrisy, trolls, tabloids, sensationalist media; portraying/covering politics and elections as a game, sport, horse race, or entertainment; harassment, bullying, humiliation, ridicule, personal attacks; animal cruelty, exploitation and commodification, poaching, poisoning, habitat destruction, over-hunting; human supremacy; the depletion and contamination of natural resources.

-ML

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May 20, 2019
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The protection of our democracy and the livability of our planet and its climate are dependent on having a more well-informed populace. It is increasingly important for people to be able to identify and combat disinformation, propaganda, smears, lies, dogma, unfounded conspiracy theories, and “fake news” from unreliable sources, in an era when online bots and “trolls” are being weaponized from outside and inside our country to spread misinformation by infiltrating social media groups and political campaigns, to wage personal attacks on candidates and sow discord, division, doubt, paranoia, hatred, chaos, and even violence. Many well-intentioned people have been unwittingly spreading lies because they were duped by cleverly concealed information warfare campaigns (often started by their adversaries or hostile regimes).

“Falsehood will fly from Maine to Georgia, while truth is pulling her boots on.”
– C.H. Spurgeon

To be well informed, you need to feed yourself a healthy, balanced diet of nutritious, fact-based, high-quality information. Avoid ingesting (or sharing) junk. Avoid all tabloids and sensationalist, entertainment-focused media; also avoid watching most cable news (especially FOX “News,” which has essentially become a fact-free outrage machine and propaganda arm of the GOP), panels of shouting pundits, and all Sinclair Broadcast Group-owned news stations. Avoid sharing articles that may not be accurate, or information that comes from highly biased or hyper-partisan publications/sources or from unknown or potentially illegitimate sources. If you’re in doubt about the accuracy of a claim, look it up on the key fact-checking sites (e.g., Factcheck.org, Politifact.com) and do a Google search to see what several reliable sources say about it.

Most importantly, seek out (and share) news from the most truth-seeking, investigative, and reputable media outlets. Of course, some journalists and reports are better than others, and even strong publications will have flawed pieces or flawed fact-checking sometimes. Readers still need to be able to engage in critical thinking, and to be able to distinguish between factual news reporting and opinion pieces (or PR pieces) from commentators, columnists, or pundits. Educators should help teach students these essential skills.

Here are a few media outlets that have regularly produced sound, informative reporting and are widely considered to be reliable, fair, trusted sources of news (though of course no publication, journalist, or human can or will ever be 100% bias-free or mistake-free):

Some additional publications that are also well-regarded and often feature informative articles (but that have sometimes been prone to more criticism or may require a more skeptical eye on certain pieces) include:

The New York TimesThe New Yorker, The AtlanticThe Economist, BloombergMother JonesThe Hill, the Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, Politico, The Nation, Slate, and Salon.

Note: This is, of course, not an exhaustive or even comprehensive list of media worth paying attention to. If there are other trusted publications that you regularly read, feel free to mention them in the Comments.

Also be sure to check out the following:

Environment, Climate, Energy, and Science Media

Also see: End Climate Silence  (Twitter page)

Fact-checking Sites

Media Integrity/Watchdog Groups

Press Freedom Advocates

It’s important that those of us who can pay something for real journalism actually do so, so that real news outlets (including local/regional newspapers and local public radio stations) can survive and not be entirely driven out by profit- and ratings-driven, sensationalist media (and lie-spreading, non-journalistic websites). Choose at least one reputable news source to subscribe to as a paid subscriber—ideally at least one local and one national or international publication—to show your support and to help keep them afloat. We can’t expect competent, professional journalists and writers to work for free, and we don’t want news media to be reliant solely on their major advertisers, who might expect them to alter (or censor) their content to serve the advertisers’ special interests.

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March 28, 2019
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Here are graphics of a few pieces of wisdom from Jane Goodall, Edward Everett Hale, Maya Angelou, Barbara Kingsolver, Paul Farmer, John Pavlovitz, Simone Weil, and Pema Chodron. (I did not create these graphics; I found them online.) Scroll to the bottom for links to additional quotations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also see:

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February 28, 2019
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Climate change (AKA climate instability/breakdown) is increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather, “natural” disasters, and emergency events. Unfortunately, many disasters are made even worse by human land use and development practices. In the last few years, many disasters (especially hurricanes/typhoons, floods, wildfires, heat waves, and landslides) around the world have been catastrophic, causing unprecedented amounts of damage and numbers of deaths (and injuries and illness), and creating thousands of climate migrants and refugees. No region is immune to climate-related disruptions and disasters; while some places are at higher risk than others (and some places will even become uninhabitable), there’s no truly “safe” place to be. Beyond climate disasters, anyone can also experience manmade disasters (e.g., industrial accidents), storms, and power outages. The more prepared you and your neighbors are, the more resilient you and your family and community can be.

Here’s something that most of us should be doing right now (everyone really, but especially those of us who are in areas that are at risk of flooding, hurricanes, fires, earthquakes and/or tsunamis, severe winter weather, or extended power outages): Assemble your emergency supplies, and make evacuation/safety plans (including meeting spots, out-of-area contacts, etc.). You should have emergency supply kits (AKA “go bags”/backpacks) stashed in your home (preferably near an outside door) or in a shed, garage, or another out-building, as well as in at least one of your family’s cars, and ideally also at your place of work. Businesses and schools should also have emergency supplies and evacuation plans in place.

There are many good emergency checklists out there (see www.Ready.gov and www.RedCross.org and the other resources that are listed at the end of this post). To get started, below is a basic list of some important things to grab (if you are able to) before exiting or evacuating your home/building in an emergency, followed by a list of some of the items to assemble now and keep in your emergency kits. Print out and start reviewing your checklists ASAP and keep a copy of them in a memorable place (e.g., in or next to your emergency kit/bag or on your refrigerator, and also keep a copy on your phone) so that you can easily refer to them in an emergency, when you may not be able to think very clearly. Start assembling your emergency kits even if you can’t pull everything together at once. Having something ready is better than nothing; you can keep adding to your kits over time.

 

GRAB BEFORE YOU GO checklist

The following are some things that probably can’t or won’t be saved in your emergency kits ahead of time, but that you should try to grab before leaving your house (or wherever you may be when an emergency strikes) if time allows:

  • Pets (and any other domesticated animals) — with their collars on (w/ ID tags or microchips that have current contact info, ideally more than 1 phone number); plus leashes, carriers/crates, meds; water, food, bowls, towels; cat litter/box (if applicable)
  • Wallet and Keys; purse / bag (w/ checkbook)
  • Cell phone (and charger cord)
  • Eyeglasses
  • Important meds
  • Sturdy shoes; warm jacket
  • Laptop and charger  (and/or computer back-up drive)
  • Portable safe / small valuables [plus the safe’s key, if applicable]
  • Some photos / photo album(s)

+  Your emergency kits/bags  [see below]

 

Evacuation Tips:

  • If evacuating due to a coming wildfire or flood or hurricane/storm, leave early (ASAP) and try to take all or most of your vehicles with you (if roadways aren’t congested yet and you have enough time and drivers) to get them out of the danger zone, so they won’t get burned or flooded and destroyed.
  • If there’s a fire, hurricane, or tornado in the vicinity and/or you need to evacuate your home for any reason, turn off the gas line if you have time. After an earthquake, turn off the gas and water lines to your house until all aftershocks are over and the utility companies have been able to check the lines for breaks or leaks. Note: Keep the right-sized/adjustable wrench near-by the gas shut-off. Try it out before you need to use it.
  • Also see CalFire’s Pre-Evacuation Preparation Steps, as well as these additional wildfire evacuation tips.

During or immediately after an emergency event or on days with extreme high or low temperatures or power outages, check on your neighbors, family, and friends, especially those who are elderly, disabled, ill, homeless, or living alone, and those who have infants or special needs.

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EMERGENCY KIT / “GO BAG” checklist

(This is a partial list of items to be assembled in advance, before an emergency happens.)

It’s best to put your emergency supplies in backpacks or other durable, water-resistant, and easy-to-carry bags. You can purchase pre-assembled emergency supply kits/bags, but make sure to supplement those with other important items that haven’t been included:

  • Grab Before You Go list (see above), printed out as a quick reference
  • Contacts List (including emergency services numbers, doctors’ names/numbers, and your out-of-area contact, etc.: print this out ahead of time and save copies in key locations and online)
  • Important papers/documents (e.g., copies of IDs, birth certificates, passports, insurance papers, deeds, legal docs, Will, bank and credit card account info., copies of prescriptions)
    [Tip: Take photos of your IDs, debit/credit cards, and other important documents and save those and key contacts on your phone and remotely in “the cloud” so you can retrieve them from your account even if you lose your phone or computer.  For more suggestions on protecting documents and valuables, see this AARP article.]
  • Cash (including some small bills); an extra credit card

[Tip: Consider getting a waterproof and fire-rated safe for your home, or rent a safe deposit box elsewhere, to hold some of your valuables, important papers, jewelry, heirlooms, extra cash, and some family photos, etc. If it’s the type of house safe that’s bolted down, you may have to leave it behind in an emergency but you may be able to recover its contents later. If it’s portable (i.e., light enough to carry and not bolted down), you may be able to take it with you during an emergency/evacuation, but that type is more susceptible to being stolen (if your home is burglarized). If the safe has a key, be sure to keep a key in your emergency kit or on your keychain or somewhere you’re likely to find it in an emergency. If it has a combination lock, make sure you can remember the combination or write it down somewhere secure.]

  • WATER; and water purifier bottle(s) or tablets
  • Toilet paper
  • Spare meds (including prescription meds)
  • First Aid Kit  (you can buy one off-the-shelf or make your own)

  • Pet/animal kit (if applicable)
    [extra collars and leashes, meds; carriers/crates; water, food, bowls, towels; extra cat litter and portable litter box; spare ID tag with current contact info, ideally more than 1 phone number; if microchipped, make sure contact info is current in database]
  • Special items for any infants, elderly, or disabled members of the household (e.g., baby food, formula/bottle, diapers, wipes, critical meds, assistive devices, etc.)

AND:

Food / snacks  (non-perishable) [check expiration dates and refresh items every year]
Toothbrush & toothpaste (and other essential toiletries)
Spare/old set of eyeglasses
Spare set of clothes (esp. underwear, socks) and shoes
Hats, scarves, gloves
Flashlights; lantern; headlamp; candles
Lighter / matches
Soap and detergent
Bags (garbage/grocery, etc.)
Towels; rags, paper towels
Small radio
Batteries
Back-up/storage/solar charger
Work gloves
Utensils; can opener; camp kitchenware set
Tools: Wrench and pliers, knife, multi-function tool, etc.
Blanket / thermal emergency blankets
Tent, sleeping bags / camping supplies (grill or camp stove?)
Duct tape
N95-rated smoke/dust masks;  safety goggles
Fire extinguisher  [Also, watch an online tutorial on how to use one, or ask your fire dep’t.]
Whistle
Tarp(s)
Bucket
Gas can
Flares
Reflective vest or other visibility gear
Safety helmet
Hydrogen peroxide (for disinfection)
Propane canister
Crowbar
Solar-powered or hand-cranked gadgets (radio, flashlight, charger)
[And ideally, a solar generator, or a solar PV system with battery storage]

Also, make sure you have hoses, buckets, a shovel, and at least one fire extinguisher on your property, for putting out spot fires. And make sure all of your smoke detectors are working and have new batteries in them.  (Earthquakes, downed power lines, fireplaces, oven/stove use, batteries, and various other things can cause fires in or around your house, so these tips apply even if you are not in wildfire country.)

 

Note: I’ll be creating PDF versions of the above checklists, so they can be downloaded and easily saved and printed. Check back soon for the PDFs. I will also periodically add to and make improvements to this post and these lists.

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For additional and more comprehensive information, checklists, and other tips on emergency preparedness and disaster response/relief, please go to:

Ready.gov

Red Cross: How to Prepare for Emergencies

Also download the Red Cross’ various mobile apps to your phone (for Emergency, Earthquake, Flood, Hurricane, Tornado, First Aid, Pet First Aid, etc.), and follow your region’s Red Cross branch on social media.

Nixle local alerts (by text/phone)

To sign up for Nixle alerts, text your zip code to 888777.

Also check with your County or City (e.g., emergency management office) and your local electric/gas utility to see if they have local emergency alert/notification systems that you can sign up for. And consider signing up on NextDoor.com to receive neighborhood/community notices (including public safety notifications from your local Sheriff’s department).

Resilient Design strategies

ASPCA Disaster Preparedness information re. pets/animals

HALTER Project (Horse, Livestock, and other animal emergency response & prep.)

Ready for Wildfire
Fire Safe Council
Fire Adapted Communities Network

CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams)

Team Rubicon

Mutual Aid Disaster Relief

International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) disaster response teams

Other disaster response training programs (a listing)

FEMA  (Federal Emergency Management Agency)

Unfortunately, FEMA is becoming less and less reliable as a source of assistance, due to underfunding and a considerable increase in catastrophic disasters. It is important for towns and states to form their own emergency/disaster response initiatives, so that communities can be more prepared and self-reliant, both during the immediate aftermath of a disaster and the longer-term recovery. If your town or county doesn’t already have an emergency preparedness and/or disaster response team or group, consider organizing one for people and/or for animals, or join one of the disaster response groups listed above. (Here’s a good website that was created by one small town’s emergency response team.) Or you can get involved by: setting up or attending a local CERT training, becoming a Red Cross volunteer, becoming a Search & Rescue volunteer for your county/region, getting certified in CPR and First Aid, or training to become a volunteer firefighter (which is especially helpful if you live in a rural area).

 

Related posts:

Later this year, I hope to publish a post on Sustainable Emergency Shelters (e.g., temporary or permanent dwelling/housing units that can be built quickly and efficiently for refugees, homeless people, and people who have lost their homes in disasters).  For the time being, we have a post on Modular, Prefab, and Compact Options for Green Homes and Structures, which may provide some helpful links for people who are looking to rebuild a home or create a temporary dwelling while they make rebuilding or relocation plans.

I’ll also be creating PDF versions of the checklists in this post, so they can be downloaded and easily saved and printed. Check back soon for the PDFs.

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January 22, 2019
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The following are some groups of (and/or for) young people who are leading and inspiring positive change and fighting for a livable future. These organizations represent various age groups (from children to teens to young adults / “millennials”), and they are building powerful social movements for climate action, intergenerational and environmental justice, and youth awareness and empowerment. Most of the following groups are based in the United States.

Many of the following groups could fall within any/all of the three categories listed below (environmental/climate action, education, and political/advocacy), but I’ve tried to put each group under the category that might be most applicable:

Environmental / climate action:

Zero Hour
Our Children’s Trust
Sunrise Movement
Earth Uprising
Youth 4 Nature
SustainUS: U.S. Youth for Justice and Sustainability
International Youth Climate Movement
Earth Guardians
Hip Hop Caucus
Brower Youth Awards
International Eco-Hero Awards (Action for Nature)
Turning Green
ECO2school youth leadership program

Education:

Institute for Humane Education
Alliance for Climate Education
Global Student Embassy
Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots
NatureBridge
Children & Nature Network
Teaching Tolerance
(And for often-informative teen media, see: Teen Vogue, the online magazine)

(Also see: Green Curricula and Environmental Learning Activities)

Political (including voting advocacy):

NextGen America
Rock the Vote
HeadCount
Campus Vote Project
Cap, Gown, Vote!
Alliance for Youth Action
Hip Hop Caucus
Millennial Politics
Young Invincibles
Youth Empower (Women’s March)
March for Our Lives / Vote for Our Lives
Youth Over Guns
Students Demand Action
Young Democrats of America
College Democrats

What are some other youth-led or youth-focused groups that you think people should know about? Please mention them in the Comments!

Related posts:

 

#ClimateStrike #GreenNewDeal

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December 18, 2018
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To make your gifts more meaningful, mindful, beneficial, and green (and avoid contributing to: mindless material consumption, exploitative corporations & sweatshops, excessive resource use, and waste), consider opting for the following types of gifts. (You could also let family members know that you prefer to receive these types of gifts if they are struggling to figure out what to get for you.)

  1. Charitable donations to non-profits, on the recipients’ behalf
  2. Experiences (e.g., events, concerts, shows, activities, memberships, parks pass, dining out)
  3. Time, assistance, services (e.g., meals, child care, rides to appointments, housecleaning, etc.)
  4. Homemade, handmade, or homegrown goods (e.g., foods, art, crafts, knitted items)
  5. Trees planted in someone’s honor or in someone’s memory (via One Tree Planted, Cool Earth, the Green Belt Movement, etc.)
  6. Locally-made goods
  7. Goods bought from local, small, independent businesses
  8. Fair-trade goods (or else “Made in the USA” goods)
  9. Goods from socially and environmentally responsible companies (e.g. B Corporations, benefit corporations, 1% for the Planet businesses)
  10. Organic, recycled, natural, non-toxic and/or energy-saving or water-saving goods
  11. Books (ideally from small/independent bookstores) or music
  12. Subscriptions to online media (newspapers, magazines, etc.)
  13. Eminently useful items (e.g., foods, emergency kits/supplies, socks, organic seeds, solar generators, money) or things you know the recipient wants and needs
  14. Durable items (not cheaply made or disposable)
  15. Re-gifted or lightly used items; family heirlooms; or antique/vintage goods
  16. Socially responsible investments (e.g., fossil-fuel-free stocks, green bonds, etc.)

Also avoid buying or using wasteful, disposable packaging or wrapping items. I often put gifts in gift bags, which can be readily re-used, or I just put a nice ribbon around some gifts (and use no wrapping). If getting gift cards, try to select electronic e-cards or paper cards rather than single-use plastic cards.

As for product gifts, a few of my favorite product companies include: Patagonia, Real Goods, Coyuchi, Earthkind, Bees Wrap, Indigenous (clothing), REI, and Lifekind(Wherever you get gifts from, please try to avoid making purchases from Amazon and Walmart.)

Lastly, if you’re planning to get a Christmas tree for the holidays, consider some alternatives to the usual chopped-down tree, such as buying or renting a living (potted and replantable) tree (do a web search for the words “living Christmas trees” or “live xmas trees” and your county name to see if there are places near you that offer these; or just go get a live, plantable tree from a nursery). Alternatively, you could put ornaments or lights on a tree that’s already growing outside in your yard. Or get creative and make a wreath or a table/mantle garland decoration from evergreen trimmings, and forego having an xmas tree at all (gasp!). In a climate crisis (which is what we are in now), and with millions of trees being destroyed by wildfires, drought, deforestation, and pests every year, I think it’s entirely fair and appropriate to question some traditions (such as our Great Annual Xmas Tree Massacre) and start up some new ones. Regardless of what you choose to do for Christmas, you can always make a donation to a reforestation group or a local tree-planting group, or plant a tree.

Useful online resources:

 

Relevant posts from the past, for additional suggestions:

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November 21, 2018
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