I recently had the chance to talk with the authors of Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations & Traditions for the Whole Family. Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson, a mother-daughter team, are the co-authors of the book. I focused on asking about green giving and have tried to accurately portray their enthusiasm and expertise.
How do you define green giving succinctly?
Lynn Colwell: The most important aspect is to emphasize the meaning behind the gift, think consciously about the reason for giving it, and the impact on the recipient.
Corey Colwell-Lipson: It is important to consider the impact on people who grew, made or manufactured the gift and on the environment.
You have a lot of suggestions in your book. What would be one good first step towards green giving?
LC: We want people to start small with something doable. For example, you can give an experience. A gift doesn’t need to be wrapped. When you are giving of yourself, the memory will last longer than any gift will. An overnight camping trip with a child is a great gift for a grandparent to give. Look at what people enjoy doing and create a special memorable event.
CCL: Give gifts of yourself. This might be something like making an organic local meal, setting up composting or a garden, or cleaning out your dad’s gutter.
LC: I collect seeds and package them in recycled paper envelopes to give as gifts. It costs almost nothing, and is something I enjoy giving.
Can you explain a little bit about the 3Gs and how they apply to green giving? The 3Gs are that the gift is good for the person, good for the community, and good for the environment.
CCL: The 3Gs are suggestions and we encourage you to consider them in making your holiday and special occasion choices. It is unlikely you can do all three; we call that the green gold ideal. Starting with one G is good.
LC: Having a gift be good for people starts with the people who make it and ends with the consumer.
CCL: So it’s important that workers are treated fairly and not exposed to dangerous chemicals. There is often an opportunity to buy Fair Trade products. A certified Fair Trade item has gone through a process to become certified. However, not all items can be certified. Some that can be are coffee, tea, flowers and wine. For a complete list go to transfairusa.org. Products made by a co-op that states they use fair trade practices are usually a good choice as well. In our book we list many of these places.
LC: These items are appearing more and more in every place imaginable. In a gift shop why not ask, “Have you thought about carrying fair trade items?”
CCL: I like holiday fairs where you can support local artisans. I also enjoy Etsy.com, a site where people sell handmade crafts. If a product says artisan made, it is unlikely it was made in slave labor like conditions. You can always call a company and let them know you like a particular product but are uncomfortable about buying it if you suspect it may have been made by someone who was not making a living wage or was otherwise treated unfairly.
LC: It is amazing how many items are out there in every category that are made in a more people and/or earth-friendly way than even a year ago.
Can you give an example of a gift you’re planning to give this holiday season?
LC: I make as many of my gifts as possible. I like to make useful gifts like books and journals. If I purchase toys, I prefer gifts from Magic Cabin or A Toy Garden online as they have wonderful wooden toys and instruments.
CCL: I like to give etsy gifts made of recycled materials to adults and teens. For kids Dana makes cute toy bugs at dreamalittle7.com.
How do you get people to give you green gifts?
LC: I would never tell someone to give me a green gift; it can be a turnoff and shuts down the conversation. Instead, have a discussion about gifts in general, not couching it in terms of eco-friendly, but these are things I’d love to receive. You can give them a copy of our book, however, it depends on the person. You need to meet people where they are. You don’t want to get in an argument around this subject. I had an interesting incident one time. I made a donation in his name, to an organization that a relative supported and he got really mad at me. He wanted something that I had picked out. It was a complete shock to me.
CCL: Sometimes people will ask you what you would like. Be honest and tell them, “I’m trying to go green and I really love the store Gaiam. Or, I love Save Your World. For every product purchased, they lease one acre of rainforest so that it will remain standing.” Give a direct and enthusiastic response. Share your enthusiasm with family and co-workers throughout the year. When you are giving green gifts, the hope is that they will enjoy them and know that this is something you cherish. One thing we’ve done with our daughters is to put on invitations that “the gift is your presence.” The meaning of a birthday party is to be together and create good memories.
Do you think green ideas are easier to implement or more accepted because you are in the Seattle area?
CCL: Certain pockets of the country are more receptive. I organize Green Halloween around the country. Communities in Los Angeles and San Francisco have been very receptive. Our representative in Daytona, Florida has had more difficulty. There is a feeling that it going to cost more money or it is going to be more difficult to do things in a green way, but it really can be very simple, inexpensive and very rewarding.
LC: We want to awaken people to the alternatives. Oftentimes, major online stores (and some brick and mortar ones as well), give back a percentage of a purchase to a charity. The gift itself is not particularly eco-friendly, but at least you are giving back in some way.
How can interested people purchase a copy of your book?
LC: The best place is from our website: http://www.celebrategreen.net/. Coming up we’ll have some opportunities to get a something free when you purchase the book. Celebrate Green! is also available through Amazon and other online shops. If anyone is interested in using the book for a fundraiser, we have a program set up so that the organization can purchase the book at 40% off and resell it for the cover price. Contact us through our website.
CCL: There is also an option to plant a tree for $1 to offset the impact of making the book, which by the way, is printed on 100% recycled FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified paper.
I enjoyed talking with Corey and Lynn and their enthusiasm is very catching. I have only had time to read the section of Celebrate Green! associated with giving green gifts, but I found a lot of neat ideas that I plan to implement in my holiday giving this year.