Last minute gift ideas to keep you green

Shop local - and keep your environmental footprint low - with these sustainable holiday gift suggestions.
Crosscut archive image.
Shop local - and keep your environmental footprint low - with these sustainable holiday gift suggestions.


Still looking for a gift or two this holiday season? Gift giving doesn’t have to exact an environmental toll or proclaim your net worth. It can be as simple as the gift of time. “Time is where we are. Time is where we’ve been,” writes poet Anthony Zeigler. “Time is being lost and found again.” 

Here are a few simple alternatives that won't contribute to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or necessitate the harvest of planet’s last remaining boreal forests.

1. Produce the produce! In the Pacific Northwest, gifts can be home-grown plums or mulled wine wrapped in festive ribbons. Even well-scrubbed carrots, parsnips, beets, sun chokes or a mix, become extraordinary when individually wrapped in tissue paper, nestled together and topped with a colorful card. No garden? Many Washington farmers markets remain open all year long and boast pippin and wine sap apples, red curry, butternut squash, frozen roasted peppers for soups and solar evaporated and hand harvested sea salt from the San Juan Islands. They make terrific gifts!

Gift certificates from a farmer’s market or organizations committed to reclaiming the local food movement are also environmentally friendly. Take 21Acres, the Woodinville center for sustainable living, growing and eating, which has reclaimed farm land and offers classes like “Venturing into the Kitchen,” "Right Sizing: Less Stuff-Less Stress" and “Irrigation Water Management”. 

2. Give the gift of the great outdoors. One overlooked gift idea: yearlong entry to Washington state's parks with the Discover Pass. Parks foster trees, unsung heroines of carbon capture, and provide refuge for critters and critical ecosystem services in a time of rapid climate change. With state and federal cutbacks, membership not only provides economic benefit to the communities that surround our parks, but ensures the longevity of the parks themselves.

Blake Island Park, for example, a stone’s throw from downtown Seattle, is a peaceful beach camping retreat. The southwest corner of the island has a stand of venerable old growth Doug firs for inspiration and solace. Only accessible by boat, the park houses a small marina and mooring cans around the island. If you don’t have your own boat, you can take the Argosy harbor tour over. 

3. Re-purposed gifts. We’ll call this an environmental gift with funk. Boogie down (or up) to the Re-Store in Ballard or Bellingham. Here you’ll find salvaged and vintage building materials and home décor (along with two very friendly cats.) There are door knobs (the “k” is emphasized, say the staff) of all makes and models — natty glass ones for as little as $25 bucks.

Wooden cabinet knobs are an even better deal — 25 cents each. Attach them to a 2 x 6" weather board at 30 cents a foot and you have a handy coat rack. What gift longing friend could resist? And there’s more!  Windows at the Re-store – the better to see the light return – can be transformed into a greenhouse, an art frame, a cabinet, a planter. Some cost as little as $5 per frame.

Happy gift hunting!

Thanks to Elizabeth Hardisty, Joelle Robinson, Heidi Siegelbaum, Heather Trim and Cathy Tuttle – all good environmentalists – for gift ideas.


Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors

Martha Baskin

Martha Baskin

Martha Baskin is an environmental reporter, whose work on the subject began with a project for the King Conservation District. Green Acre Radio was born shortly afterward. Her work is currently supported by the Human Links Foundation. She was one of the founding reporters for Pacifica's Free Speech Radio News and has been a contributor to the National Radio Project's Making Contact.