by Mary Morgan

As the holiday season approaches, why not spark a smile from family and friends with something eco-friendly, showing you care about them, and the planet?  Call it cool, environmentally-conscious or low carbon, just go green!  

My Green Gift Criteria

What makes a green gift? I use three science-based criteria as my guide: 

1. Eliminate waste and pollution.  That means choosing ingredients, materials and packaging with low or zero carbon footprints. Just say NO to plastic (a petrochemical made from fossil fuels, 80% of plastic toys end up in landfills) and YES to zero waste.

2. Circulate resources within the community. Buying local is best! 

3. Regenerate nature. Does this gift help nature thrive and boost biodiversity? (Think native plants, pollinator gardens, Save Our Monarchs, you get the idea).

Cool presents can also include not-buying – instead get creative and remake, repurpose, regift. Then nothing is thrown away, and as Annie Leonard reminds us “there is no away.”  

Put Their Name On It

Want to really eliminate waste and pollution? The most zero-polluting, no-emissions present of all is a gift in someone’s name. For kids (my young nieces and nephews) one of my favorites is Heifer International, supporting families-in-need with a sheep, chicken or lama, giving a little sustainable business as they can sell the wool, milk or eggs. Or check out Plenty.org, providing organic plant agriculture-based aid in 19 countries, including the US.

Put their name on something personally meaningful, like a bank account. I fondly remember my grandfather starting a savings account for me when I was 10. Climate First Bank, a FDIC-insured community bank was founded to combat the climate crisis, and is endorsed by Paul Hawken, author of Drawdown. What about a family name on a brick pathway or patio offered by a local non-profit? 

Choose no-emissions, no-pollution. As Michel Mann, author of “Our Fragile Moment,” has said in recent interviews: we have to live in a way that not just lowers — but stops – the use of fossil fuels. 

Love Your Local 

The best way to circulate resources in the community is to support a local business. Did you know that $100 spent locally recirculates a whopping $58?  Everyone loves food. Why not a membership to a local farm CSA, or wine club, or a gift certificate to a local gourmet shop (or book store, or a shop like Vintage Times in Greenport)? Have fun exploring our art galleries and artisanal craft shops for unique gifts.  

Super local can be something given from your own collection of loved things – maybe a piece of jewelry, a special family memento, or collection of family recipes. My art historian mother loved to give (and receive) books, making some of my most cherished gifts those she shared from her own library.

Close the Loop

Regenerating nature gifts close the loop and activate the biological cycle, making our planet healthier. Gifting a membership to a local stewardship-driven nonprofit fits the bill. We have so many – Peconic Land Trust, Group for the East End, North Fork Audubon, North Fork Environmental Council, Southold Pollinator Pathways, Rewild Long Island East, Cornell Marine Program and so many more. 

One of the most regenerative activities around is oyster farming – it fits the “regenerative farming” profile by requiring no fresh water, feed or fertilizer, and actively sequestering carbon. A keystone species, oysters are filter-feeders and provide essential nursery habitat for other marine life, especially finfish. According to the Long Island Oyster Growers Association, Long Island oysters filter 900 million gallons of water every day, vastly improving water quality.  And hey, they are delicious! If you are thinking of a regenerative gift, consider the oyster….

Composting is perhaps the most “close the loop” system, taking food out of our waste stream and repurposing it into soil-enriching compost. Close the loop with a subscription to a community compost program, like Ecological Cultural Institute (ECI), gift a worm farm, a backyard compost system, or take advantage of a special discount on a FoodCycler appliance that reduces food scraps by 90% into a dry soil amendment overnight.  The discount is offered through the East End Countertop Recycler Pilot, a partnership of the Long Island Organics Council and Food Cycler Science. It makes “a great green holiday gift,” said a Southold resident and current pilot participant. 

Green gifts have the potential to be more than just a present. They are a conscious choice to minimize our negative impact on the planet. Why not celebrate our holidays with gifts that not only warm the hearts of those we care about but also cool our planet for generations to come.

P.S. Don’t forget the wrapping. Cloth bags that can be used again and again are often greatly appreciated. Remember to reduce, reuse and recycle (in that order!) – and this holiday, rejoice!


Former Locavore, now a Climatarian, sailor, beachcomber Mary Morgan lives in Orient with her husband Tom, naturalist and mushroom forager, early founders the local chapter Slow Food East End in 2004. Four years ago Mary co-founded a grassroots East End effort inspired by Project Drawdown dedicated to local solutions to reverse global warming. 

Climate Local Now is a partnership between the East End Beacon and Drawdown East End, whose mission is to inspire local solutions to reverse global warming. 

East End Beacon
The East End Beacon is your guide to social and environmental issues, arts & culture on the East End of Long Island.

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