Dreaming of A Green Christmas – Tree Gifts

tree gifts for urban greeningWe’ve suggested large trees as gifts in our useful green gift guide, but what if you’d like to give a tree, but the recipient doesn’t have space for one?

Greenpop has the solution. You can buy a tree from them and they will plant it for you in one of their urban or rural greening projects. Choose from a fruit tree to be planted in a school, an indigenous tree to green up an urban area or reforest a rural area. They will send a certificate in the name of whoever you are giving the tree to, with the GPS co-ordinates of your exact tree. They follow up on the tree care to make sure it is sustainable, so your gift will last for years and make a real difference to a community and to nature

You both have the satisfaction of your gift contributing positively to the environment, instead of loading you with the guilt of more stuff to de-clutter a few weeks after Christmas!

The tree gift offer is currently deal of the day on CityMob, or buy direct from Greepop. It costs R75 for an indigenous tree and R100 for a fruit tree.

Drive Green, Save Fuel, Plant Trees

drive green save fuel

© Creativei | Dreamstime.com

Going green is about changing your mindset, so that everything you do is geared towards minimizing your carbon footprint. We try, but there are some areas where it’s hard to live the green ideal. Driving is one of our biggest Achilles heels.

So it was great to see this article on saving fuel by changing your driving habits. I already do several of the things advised on the list, but there are points where I could do better – checking the tyres for one! With the price of petrol constantly on the rise, anything we can do to cut consumption has to be good, not just for the environment but also for our pockets.

Living on a farm you’d think would be a very green way of living, and in many ways it is. We can grow our own vegetables, compost much of our waste and so on. But when it comes down to transport it is the opposite of green – distances are further for schools, shopping and face to face meetings. This is when it starts to seem like a greener choice to live in a town or city…There is little or no public transport in rural areas, it’s too far to walk or bicycle to the nearest town… so until  the solar powered car becomes a reality, we just have to ease our consciences by combining trips, sharing lifts and planting trees to try and offset our carbon footprint.

But now I have something else on my eco-conscience – a planned family reunion that involves flying halfway across the world with our children. How many large trees are we going to have to plant to make up for that I wonder?!

Use QR codes for Smart and Green Business Cards

Green QR code design for business cards

A QR code with a difference

While we’re not quite ready to get rid of business cards and go paperless, there are ways of making them greener. Hi-tech ways that don’t necessarily involve recycled paper and re-used packaging. QR codes are the latest ingenious solution. They are simply printed graphic codes, like bar codes but more complex, that can be scanned by a Smartphone with the appropriate app.

The code printed on your business card can contain all your contact details, to make it easier for a new contact to input them into their phone – one click of the camera button and it’s done. This can save on the number of business cards that you have to give out – once the details are inputted some contacts won’t bother to keep the card, so it can be re-used again and again for scanning purposes.

QR codes can also contain urls, so that with one click your contact can go straight to a web page, an electronic brochure, or whatever.

So, at business networking events, your business cards could save you needing to print off fliers or brochures altogether. Send your new contacts straight to a page that is updated regularly with all your latest offers or new services. The QR code doesn’t need to change, all you have to do is update the page it links to, according to the event you are attending.

If you have several different lines of products or services, you might consider having different versions of your business card printed with QR codes linking to different websites or pages. The great thing about these codes is that they can become effective design elements in themselves, making it easier to differentiate between them.

Talk to a designer or printer who is experienced in QR codes to get the best ideas for your smart and green business cards.

Green Gift Ideas – Useful Gifts

Green Christmas gifts

© Stuart Miles | Dreamstime.com

Useful gifts used to be frowned on. It was better to give something frivolous and decorative than something the recipient could really use. Gifts were supposed to be inessentials, luxuries, prettinesses.

Nowadays we reckon it’s time those restrictions went out of the window. With everyone tightening their belts and cutting budgets, or else going minimalist and decluttering, most frivolous gifts end up being a waste of money and a waste of precious resources.

The truly green gift is useful.

Useful is defined as being something the recipient will actually use – it doesn’t have to be dull – socks again, Dad? Not that there’s anything wrong with socks!  So here are just a few suggestions of useful gifts that would be welcome at our house.

Gourmet cooking ingredients
I love cooking and baking and am always sorely tempted by the gorgeous but expensive ingredients on display next to the regular ones at the supermarket. So a hamper filled with Nomu cocoa and other goodies, real vanilla extract, organic stoneground flour and other organic and gourmet ingredients would be used and appreciated.

LED light bulbs
Like many families we want to go greener but can’t always afford the materials. We’ve had LED light bulbs on our shopping list for ages, but haven’t been able to afford to make the switch. So for the aspiring green family a selection of top quality LED light bulbs would make a thoughtful and very green gift.  Just check what light sockets they have before you buy and consult with an LED specialist about the best options.

Trees or Plants
If someone in your family enjoys gardening, or is about to redesign their garden, how about buying plants or trees. One of my best gifts last year was a whole selection of herbs to re-stock my herb garden, a gift that I am still enjoying over a year later as the herbs continue to flourish. Depending on their garden think of getting a couple of large trees, together with the planting service (no-one wants to spend Christmas holidays digging enormous holes and hefting about large trees!) Or else give them a voucher for a plant nursery near them so they can choose their own selection of plants.

Craft materials
This is a great one for kids – instead of getting yet another plastic toy, get craft materials for them to create with. Don’t get a set in a box (just more for the recycling and often cheap and nasty materials inside) – rather buy a stack of felt squares in a rainbow of colours together with needle and embroidery silks. Or buy a blank canvas with a set of paints or a stack of good quality painting paper with a selection of art materials.

Natural Candles
If you’re still struggling with the useful concept a candle would be the perfect gift for those that love candlelight. To make sure it is green make sure it is a soy, beeswax or hemp candle, not the usual paraffin/petroleum wax. Candles made from natural materials are more expensive, another reason for them to make good gifts, but they are better for the air quality  in the home, better for the environment and smell much nicer too!

I could go on and on, but you get the idea – find something that the person would like to buy regularly but which is a bit of a luxury. Everyone has something different. When I was a kid it used to be tobacco for pipe-smoking uncles or a favourite brand of whisky – nowadays my biggest vice is chocolate, so I’d be more than happy to be bought a bundle of slabs of Lindt chocolate… useful, maybe not… appreciated definitely!

More green gift ideas for gifts that aren’t just stuff. And green gifts that aren’t just clutter.

Green Gift Ideas – Don’t Give A Thing!

Green gift ideasI don’t mean not to give anything as a gift, but rather don’t give a ‘Thing”… a thing being an object that takes up space, isn’t really wanted and quickly becomes clutter to be discarded before next Christmas. It’s fine if you know that someone really wants that object, will use it and appreciate it, but what about all those other unwanted gifts that nestle under the tree.

Here are some green gift ideas that aren’t things, won’t take up any space and will be appreciated all the more for that.

Everyone loves a massage, but how many of us actually treat ourselves to one regularly? A gift of a massage session with a skilled masseur, whether it is an aromatherapy massage, a foot massage with pedicure or any other pampering treatment is a Christmas gift that is bound to be appreciated by most women and many men. Choose a therapy centre near the recipient, or a luxury spa, depending on your budget, pay for the massage and ask them to give you a voucher to be used any time in the next few months.

Photography Courses
How many budding photographers do you know who are struggling to learn all their camera functions and would love to learn how to take better photos? Why not arrange a photography course or workshop for them as a gift.  A one-on-one workshop gives them a chance to ask all the questions they need and focus on their particular area of photography or a longer course gives them time to practice their skills in a group.

Flower pictures
Looking for an inexpensive gift idea – how about selecting and downloading some flower pictures from a photo gallery online. They can be downloaded in several sizes depending on what you want to do with them –  the small size suitable for web use can cost as little as $1, larger ones for web use $3 and sizes for printing from $10. So you can get some beautiful flower art for very little.

Meal out for Two
When budgets are stretched almost the first thing we cut is eating out. The gift of a meal out at a good local restaurant would delight many couples. Arrange with the restaurant for a voucher and check with them the average price of a three course meal.

Tickets for a Concert or Show
Is there a band coming to town that they love, or perhaps the Kirstenbosch summer concerts if you’re in Cape Town. Surprise them with tickets for the show.

Download books
Have they got a kindle or other digital reader?  A Kindle book download voucher is a very green gift – just make sure that you know which format they use.

Eco travel
If you really want to splash out on a gift, how about paying for holiday in an unspoilt paradise, where the locals are restoring a coral reef and need the support of travelers to fund the process – perhaps the flights make it less green overall, but as a gift it certainly would wow the recipient!

If you want to have something tangible to put under the tree, how about a home-made card on recycled paper that contains a voucher or a slip of paper telling what the gift is going to be.

More green gift ideas that aren’t just clutter.