Here are some ideas for environmentally correct gifts

November 19, 1998|By Dennis Shaw

For years I refused to pay any attention to Christmas until after Thanksgiving. I avoided stores that put up their Christmas decorations in November, and I refused to make a Christmas list until at least Dec. 1.

But, alas, since most of my family and friends shop early, and I refused to give them a wish list, I often ended up getting gifts I didn't want or like. That went against the environmentalist part of me that wants to reduce my consumption.

I finally broke down and agreed to come up with an earlier list of environmentally correct gifts. And in case you have friends who are as weird as I am, here are my suggestions:

From hardware or home-improvement stores, you could buy a compact fluorescent lightbulb, a couple of rechargeable flashlight batteries and maybe even a battery recharger. You also might be able to pick up a solar-powered calculator or wristwatch.


There are lots of energy-saving home appliances there, too. I've asked for a one-quart slow cooker that I can turn on at night and have organic hot cereal waiting for me in the morning.

In grocery stores, you can find brown paper coffee filters, household products made from recycled paper, and in many stores now, a selection of organic fruits, vegetables and eggs.

In Frederick, Md., there's a store called The Common Market at 5813 Buckeystown Pike, which is stocked almost entirely with food items and cosmetics that are produced with minimal harm to the environment. For environmental caffeine addicts, there's a wide selection of organic coffees, and there are herbal teas, organic soaps and natural vitamins.

If you're willing to drive to Rockville, Md., there are two similar but larger stores - MOM (My Organic Market) at 11711B Parklawn Drive, near White Flint shopping mall, and Fresh Fields at 1649 Rockville Pike. You can spend hours finding neat gifts in any of those places, or you can get a gift certificate.

If your environmentalist friends are bird watchers - a common combination - many local nurseries and department stores offer a wide array of bird food, feeders and nesting boxes or maybe a pair of good binoculars.

My favorite standby always is a bookstore, and nowadays any one of them has a big selection of titles relating to the environment. Some have sections on ecology, and there are shelves full of books on nature, organic gardening, vegetarian cooking, climate change, old-growth forests, wetlands and on and on.

I'm always happy to get field guides to such things as reptiles or wildflowers or animal tracks. I also find it fun to exchange an unwanted book after browsing for a different title in my favorite sections.

If you like to do your shopping from home, there are catalogs geared to consumers with ecology on their minds. A few of my favorites are Real Goods, 1-800-762-7325, and Harmony, 1-800-869-3446, for a wide range of products; deep e co, 1-888-233-3373, for shoes; Planet Hemp, 1-800-681-4367, for products made of hemp; and Thanksgiving Coffee Co., 1-800-648-6491, for organic coffees.

It's also easy to order a subscription to an environmental magazine, make a donation in someone's name to an environmental cause or buy a black bear conservation stamp from Maryland's Department of Natural Resources, 1-800-873-3763. The list goes on, but my space has run out, and it isn't even Thanksgiving yet.

Dennis Shaw is a former Herald-Mail editor. Write him at P.O. Box 276, Clear Spring, Md. 21722, or call 301-842-3863.

The Herald-Mail Articles