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 As we begin celebrating this joyous holiday season, and are thinking of the perfect gifts for your family and friends, consider looking for eco-friendly items to buy. Extending that gift giving joy to our earth, is getting much easier too, as more sustainable/eco-friendly items are made. We consumers hold most of the power and can vote for what we want, with every purchase we make. When we choose products that cause less or no harm to public health or the environment, we send a clear message to manufacturers that we make safeguarding both, a top priority, for current and future generations.

 Most companies source components used to make their products, that are the least expensive for them, but sadly that often comes at great expense to our environment. From mining, drilling, and in the processing of raw materials, to their manufacturing, (not to mention shipping & packaging), there is almost always a negative footprint left on our world. When we choose items with the least negative impact, not only do we help the environment, but we also let companies know: if they want to stay competitive, they'll produce more environmentally friendly products.

 Below is a short list of ideas and a few links to either buy or get eco-friendly gift ideas from.

 The 1st and best option doesn't require a purchase at all, as it's giving the gift of your time. It can be done nicely in a number of ways. For example, you could make a book filled with "coupons" your family and friends can "redeem" for things you would do for or with them, like: doing indoor or outdoor chores, shopping or rides to appointments, babysitting, house or pet sitting, dinners or seeing a movie or show together, or simply spending time visiting. You could also add blank coupons they can fill in themselves to "redeem" with you. Our time is the most precious & priceless thing we can give, that's greatly appreciated by both the young and old. When we choose to "spend" it on others, not only do we enhance their life and ours, but we also save $ and protect the environment, by not adding more goods to our world, that will need care and eventually, once its usefulness is over, will then be discarded. Remember when we throw things away, there is no "away", it remains here, somewhere on the planet, polluting someone's local environment (in some cases for 100's of years).

 Next are gifts to help make memories with. This can include restaurant, cafe, movie, theater, classes and event tickets or gift certificates, that people you're buying for can redeem, often when they want. Gift certificates for places they enjoy are great, because then they can buy or do things they want or need. It also reduces packaging & wrapping. Speaking of, did you know that 29.7% of municipal solid waste is single use packaging? 77.5 million tons generated in 2015 alone. (data from https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/containers-and-packaging-product-specific-data ). These numbers are a good incentive to reduce our buying or switch to eco-friendly items. Many have no packaging, or are biodegradable, as well as the item or product itself.

 Wrapping paper is also a non eco-friendly issue, since most of it isn't recyclable & takes a long time to break down. Consider making your own, decorating a plain paper bag, reusing gift bags, or simply forgo any covering at all. Most older people can tell of a time when Santa didn't wrap gifts, & the rest from family & friends were simply wrapped in reusable cloth.

 Finally, consider buying local. If the stores you frequent don't have a good selection of eco-friendly items, ask them to stock more. In doing so you not only help the environment (by reducing shipping/packaging associated with online shopping), but are also help your local economy and community stability. If it's difficult for you to shop in stores, please google "eco-friendly gifts" or check out the suggested websites below for gifts, ideas and learning opportunities. Many sites offer products made in the U.S. too. When we make small changes in our gift giving ways, they can have a huge positive impact on public health and the environment.

Happy Holidays from all of us here at Great Lakes Environmental Alliance!

https://eartheasy.com/ , https://www.1worldglobes.com/ , https://www.hugg-a-planet.com/collections/foundlings/products/cares-for-bears/ , http://www.castlecompost.com/ , https://www.colorsofnature.com/ ,  https://www.etsy.com/market/eco_friendly_gifts/ , www.reachandteach.com/ , 

https://www.uncommongoods.com/gifts/collections/green-gifts/  , https://store.sierraclub.org/storefront/ 

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