It's never been easier to give eco-friendly gifts. With stores throughout Somerset County offering everything from organic terry cloth robes to hemp dog beds, there is a "green" gift for everyone on your list this year.
To keep with the theme, skip the wrapping paper. Pick up a few cute, reusable canvas totes instead. (Or tie your own bow made with organic fibers on the "brick" you can buy this week at Ridge High School. Keep reading until the end!)
Here are my top 10 picks for green gifts available right here in Somerset County for the...
- Do-It-Yourselfer—An Alpaca from the Alpacas of Gemini farm in Basking Ridge. OK, maybe buying the whole animal is a bit over the top, but the fleece of adorable animals (which never end up on a chopping block) makes some incredibly soft, warm clothing and accessories. The farm on Overlook Avenue offers alpaca fiber for knitters, weavers, seamstresses and anyone interested in creating comfy clothes. There are also ready-made items. The hand-knit scarf is my favorite, available through the Alpaca Fiber Market on the Alpaca Nation website, and there's Alpaca With a Twist yarn from Down Cellar in Basking Ridge. If you are knew to alpaca-fiber, check out this article to understand why these animals are so eco-friendly.
- Kids—"Water, Weed and Wait," written by Edith Hope Fine and Angela Halpin, with illustrations by Colleen M. Madden. Make it a complete project by taking a day trip to a local farm, adding supplies and an offer to help plant their own vegetable garden. The book is available at the Barnes & Noble and Borders in Bridgewater; the gardening supplies are available at just about any home improvement store or gardening center.
- Frequent Traveler—To-Go Ware Bamboo Utensil Set. Think of how many plastic knives, forks, spoons and chopsticks are tossed in the garbage everyday. Help your eco-traveler stay green with these stylish bamboo utensils. I bring them on the road with me all the time. They're easy to wash and the cloth holder fits in every bag. Look for them at Whole Foods. Drop the utensils in a cute canvas tote bag and toss in a reusable thermos to complete the gift.
- Athlete—Self-filtering Bobble Water Bottle. The clear water bottle contains a bright carbon filter, available in six colors. It filters chlorine and organic contaminants from regular tap water. The water bottle can filter enough water to equal 250 plastic water bottles. These trendy but purposeful bottles are available at tons of retailers. Locally, look for them at Bloomingdale's, Bed Bath & Beyond, Container Store, Hallmark Gold Crown, Harmons, JCPenney, Macy's and Wegmans.
- Homebody Who Loves to Curl up in Front of the Fire—Coyuchi Linen Terry Robe, made with organic cotton, from The Organic Nest in Bernardsville. It is a beautiful, natural light brown with wide white edging.
- Pet/Pet Lover—Eco+ Hemp Oval Dog Bed made by Bowsers. The closest local retailer isThe Hungry Hound in Somerville. The soft shell is made from super-sustainable hemp, while the fiber inside comes from recycled plastic soda bottles.
- Book Worm—iPad. If you're really committed to going green, it's time to get over the fear of giving up paper books. While the Nook Color and Kindle are receiving rave reviews, the iPad will likely stay hot much longer. It is an extremely green product, free of PVC, arsenic, mercury and bromine and the outer shell is made of recyclable aluminum and glass. There are even several cases made of recycled materials.
- Movie Buff—One-touch Video Rental. Forget NetFlix or Blockbuster. To save time, energy and gasoline, gift a subscription to Amazon or iTunes video on-demand services. There are options to rent or buy, and never any late fees to stress over. Start off with "Avatar," a movie full of eco-friendly undertones.
- Teenagers—Anything from TerraCycle. This local company offers a wide range of items made from what would otherwise end up in a garbage dump. Sounds strange, but the shoulder bags, clocks, picture frames and other items don't look trashy at all. Its products are available everywhere from Whole Foods to Walmart. The flagship store is in Princeton in Palmer Square West.
- One Who Has Everything—Donate to a local charity, such as the community garden or food pantry. Not sure what charities accept donations? Call your high school—chances are there is always a club soliciting donations for an upcoming charity event, clothing drive or food collection. Ridge Peer Organization at Ridge High School is holding a toy drive for Children's Specialized Hospital located in Mountainside. Please donate new toys for children ages 1 month to 21 years, but no stuffed animals. Drop off gifts at the school's guidance office by Thursday for distribution to the children for the holidays. Ridge High School students also may "buy a brick" at the Habitat for Humanity table to help build a home for someone in need. The table is outside the school cafeteria through this week.
Not finding what you're looking for in these stores? Check out freecycle.org to see if someone else has what you're looking for. The free network connects neighbors who are looking to give away items that others may love.
Or just donate a gift through a local religious organization. The Liberty Corner Presbyterian Church collects special gifts and "regifts" for its annual deacons' Christmas Gift Giving program. Bonnie Frey of Warren, coordinator of the program, said this week she was still collecting gifts for families whose financial hardships this year make it difficult to afford "extras" such as Christmas gifts.
— with Linda Sadlouskos