Photo via Flickr: Paul Keleher

Photo via Flickr: Paul Keleher

This week’s Eco Etiquette dealt with a lady who was a bit overzealous with her ‘green’ purchasing — picture frames made from reused bike chains, wind chimes pieced together from recycled wine bottles — basically, a lot of junk that would likely die a swift landfill death. The moral of the story is, it doesn’t matter if something says green or eco-friendly. The question is: Is it really useful? Is this something we really need?

According to Joshua Stolaroff, a former science and technology policy fellow with EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, these are the questions we should be asking ourselves if we really want to make a dent in global warming. Not, Should I unplug my toaster or Should I switch to biodiesel, but Should I buy this? Two reports he recently authored draw the same conclusion: The biggest contribution to global warming is all the stuff we buy (and the stuff used to package all the stuff we buy).

Read this from The Daily Green: Everything you know about going green is wrong

So with the holiday season almost upon us, what can you give that isn’t “stuff,” without being a Grinch and forswearing the holidays altogether? A few ideas (my thanks to the HuffPost comments board for their contributions):

Give an experience. A massage appointment, tickets to the theater or a concert, a gift certificate for a fabulous restaurant meal, even a series of guitar or voice lessons for the musically inclined. The key here is to choose something that the recipient wouldn’t normally splurge on.

Give to a charity in the person’s name. This isn’t for everyone (remember “The Strike” episode of Seinfeld?), but if you know someone who is particularly civic-minded, this can be a really meaningful gift. And you can be creative, too: One HuffPost reader had given a share in a tiger sanctuary, sets of farm tools and seeds for farmers in Africa who’d lost everything in assorted conflicts, and immunizations for kids in Asia.

Refurbish a family heirloom. Technically, this is “stuff,” but it’s making use of something that would otherwise go to waste. Everyone’s got treasures hidden in away in a storage closet or the attic, or maybe there’s something you cherish that you know someone you love will get tremendous joy from. So have the crack in that crystal vase fixed or take that antique bracelet to the jeweler to be repaired and give it to another family member. One year, my mom had an expensive vintage handbag of hers fixed up for me, and it was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.

What gifts have you given/received that weren’t “stuff”? Post your suggestions below!

–Jennifer Grayson

Do this now: Watch The Story of Stuff.

Related posts:
Green goods
The careful consumer

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