Green Up Your Gifts

Choosing healthier and more eco-friendly options for your kids.

Green Up Your Gifts

Photo: Gerri Photography


The mailbox is bursting with cards, Santa is in every shopping mall, and Bing Crosby is on the radio. The holidays are in full swing. It’s time to trim the tree, explain sugar plums to the four-year-old and swap gifts with your near and dear.

Little ones are especially fun to shop for, though many of the most sought after children’s gifts leave Mother Nature with a cough. They are often plastic gizmos, mass produced, and shipped thousands of kilometres – batteries not included. But, there are many eco-friendly options that will bring that magical smile to a child’s face, and keep Mother Nature happy too.

What to look for

There are a range of factors to weigh when judging how environmentally friendly a gift really is.

Consider the materials used to make the item.

•  Steer clear of products that may contain lead, PVCs or BPAs, and avoid plastics whenever possible.

•  Look for products made from natural, sustainable materials such as wood, paper, natural rubber and organic textiles. For example, push and pull toys and ride-on toys made from natural sustainably grown woods and natural rubber wheels or craft kits made of recycled materials.

•  When purchasing plush toys, be aware that the stuffing may consist of pesticide soaked filler. Look for natural, responsible plush toys made from organic cotton and stuffed with safe fibres like wool.

•  Purchase organic and fair-trade options when available. For example, organic clothing lines for kids, which use organic cotton, natural wool, alpaca fleece, and vegetable dyes, or fair-trade candy and chocolate.

Find out where the item was manufactured. Shipping is an important factor in our carbon footprint. Buy local, as much as possible, at craft shows, farmers’ markets and independently owned stores.

Calculate how much will end up in a landfill. Consider the amount of packaging, the nature of the gift and the quality with which it was made. Select items that may become keepsakes. A high quality, wood framed art easel will keep kids’ creative juices flowing for years. A silver locket may be handed down for generations. A beautiful, hardcover edition of a classic children’s story will be treasured forever.

Consider alternatives to the traditional battery. Only use rechargeable batteries for the toys that need batteries, and choose items like solar powered toys, or wind-up radios, flashlights and clocks. They’re fun, educational and good to have on hand in an emergency.

Range of gifts available

Here are some other green gift ideas:

Experience Gifts – Tickets, gift cards or memberships make fantastic gifts. A trip to the museum, the science centre, a concert or a movie is a wonderful 
experience for a child, fostering lifelong memories.

Baskets of Goodies – ’Tis the season for lots of baking. All kids have a sweet tooth, so set some of those decadent treats aside as gifts for them. You have the advantage of being able to take your child’s preferences and special dietary needs into account.

Do-It-Yourself Toys – When a toy is made by the giver, it takes on special meaning. Turn remnant fabric or odd socks into beautiful puppets, stuffed toys, or new clothes for a favourite doll. Colour co-ordinate fabrics and piece together a keepsake quilt for a child’s bed. Woodcutters can take scraps and fashion brand new toys.

Back to Basics – Books are traditional gifts that are also green. They can be passed around, handed down and later donated to the library. Digital books are a paperless option.

Eco Skills – Some gifts impart skills that will keep kids living green well into adulthood. A bicycle gives a child freedom and puts an end to the parental chauffeur service. Once children know how to ride a bike, they have a means of transport that leaves no carbon footprint. Gardening is also a useful skill and there are a variety of mini greenhouse starter kits available. Packets of flower or vegetable seeds and a few decorative pots may be all that is necessary to start greening a child’s thumb.

Adopt an Animal – Wildlife protection agencies will often raise funds through the symbolic adoption of individual animals of an at-risk or endangered species. Adopting an animal, in the child’s name, is an effective way to raise their awareness of the risks many animals are facing. These adoptions are usually accompanied by a certificate, a packet of educational materials on the species and, often, a plush toy.

Author: Jennifer Routledge

Jennifer Routledge is a freelance writer and mom;

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