By Larraine Roulston:
Giving and receiving birthday gifts have become part of our culture. Even if you are not in need of anything, you still might receive a present on your big day. As for myself, I am decluttering and desire only a phone call from each of my children; however, should they be so inclined to surprise me, they know ahead of time that any gift should be either something organic to eat, a personal handmade card, or a donation to any one of the environmental causes which range from saving the bees to saving the ocean.
When it comes to gift-giving for a toddler, look towards choosing clothes made from organic fabrics, cuddly toys designed from organic bamboo yarn or reclaimed wool with dye-free wool stuffing, natural rubber toys, wooden blocks, or picture books printed on post-consumer recycled paper. You could repurpose a piece of fabric to make a stuffed toy, taking the opportunity to insert some lavender to nurture sleep. Parents often appreciate a gift of money to put toward their little one’s education.
Once in school, children love to include new friends at their birthday parties. Gifts can range from wooden toys to puzzles made with recycled paper, or a local thrift store book or board game. Packets of vegetable seeds to grow or milkweed seeds to attract monarch butterflies along with a nature story book is an inspiring combination. Choosing a fancy restaurant or a children’s theatre is memorable.
For teens on the go, choices can include public transit tickets, a stainless steel thermos and travel mug, ski passes, or a bicycle with accessories. Consider giving the experience of rock climbing or zip lining.
There are many eco-friendly household birthday gift ideas such as a water-saving shower head, a house plant or container pots, cast-iron frying pan, LED light bulbs, organic cotton linens, a sturdy clothes drying rack, solar garden lights, or beeswax candles. If you are about to celebrate a birthday with a friend during either Earth Week or International Compost Awareness Week (first week in May), give the gift that just keeps on giving …. a composter! For homeowners, it is a backyard unit; for apartment/condo dwellers, it is a vermicomposter or the Vokashi fermenting composting system.
Personal gifts can include jewelry from recycled gems and metals, fair trade items, or as the latest clever Rainforest Alliance You Tube video states, “You don’t have to go to the ends of the earth to save the rainforest — Just Follow the Frog.”
As senior folks don’t need any more stuff to trip over, opt for the gift of entertainment or homemade jams or baked goods. Try making a natural DIY massage bar, soap or lip balm that will accompany a day at the spa. A good friend of mine enjoys receiving a monetary gift to apply to her favorite charity, Kiva – Loans that change lives. She says, “I just love to spend time scanning the list of entrepreneurs and choose the person to whom I want to offer a loan, then later follow their career.”
Sadly, our world is filled with useless, breakable items designed to be outdated the following year; however, it’s not difficult to select an environmentally sound birthday gift. Wrapping tips include a reusable gift bag, newspaper or fabric. Birthday cards are best handmade or printed using vegetable dyes on post-consumer recycled paper.
Larraine authors a children’s adventure series on composting at www.castlecompost.com