The Story of Stuff & Sustainable Holiday Gift Ideas

Watch this great video with Annie Leonard — it’s an arresting account of the details and repercussions of product Extraction, Production, Distribution, Consumption, and Disposal. Spread the word, it’s really interesting!

The Story of Stuff

With that in mind, and with the holiday shopping season upon us, it may be better (and easier) to consider buying your loved ones services instead of products – after all, services don’t run out! Here is a range of ideas for

Sustainable Holiday Gifts:

Tickets to movies, musicals, plays, or concerts

Local Artwork

Tours, excursions, hikes

Classes or lessons (cooking, dance, martial arts, yoga, music, art, etc.)

Bus, train, or metro passes

Website or Blog Hosting

Skype credit, calling cards

Gift certificates for:

Spa & Massage

Rock Climbing


A Nice Meal

You could also combine some of these things to make a pretty neat gift package; for instance, you could get your loved one in New Haven:

– a train ticket to New York City,

-a gift certificate to a nice New York French or Middle Eastern restaurant,

– and a ticket to see Wicked or any other show.

They’re sure to have a blast, and who doesn’t love free stuff?


Update: December 18th.

Here are some more ideas for green holiday gifts:

Adopt an Acre, Rescue the Reef, or Adopt a Square Mile.

– Swim with the Sharks (and explore the rest of the site for other ideas, like CityZen Chef’s Table, Radio DJ Experience, Tasting & Tea for Two, and more)

 and definitely check out:

– Green Dimes: For only 15 dollars, cut your junk mail up to 90% and they plant 10 trees!

“Step 1: Sign Up
As soon as you join, our team does all the work to get your name off dozens of direct marketer’s mailing lists. This will take care of a big chunk of the junk!

Step 2: Hate Your Catalogs? Love Your Catalogs?
Just let us know! Log in anytime to your GreenDimes account and click on our easy-to-use Catalog Screener to enter the catalogs and other mailings that you want stopped.

Step 3: You Register. We Monitor.
Each month GreenDimes monitors the Direct Marketing Association’s mailing list to ensure that your name gets off and stays off their mailing lists. In order for us to do this, you will need to register your name with the DMA. They charge $1 per name, but registering will make a big difference in the amount of junk in your mailbox.”

… Happy Holidays! 🙂


The New Taboo: Bottled Water


You may have heard the buzz surrounding the use of bottled water, and it seems like what was once quite an ordinary artifact at most barbecues, conventions, parties, and any other get-togethers (not to mention regular, everyday usage) has become a veritable symbol of wastefulness – and for good reason.

Here are 10 interesting (and somewhat scary) facts about bottled water:

1. “An estimated 25 percent or more of bottled water is really just tap water in a bottle—sometimes further treated, sometimes not treated at all.” –

2. Drinking bottled water is 1000 (one thousand!) times more expensive than drinking tap water.

3. “In an interesting study conducted by Showtime television, the hosts found that 75% of tested New York City residents actually preferred tap water over bottled water in a blind taste test.” –

4. “Bottling and shipping water is the least efficient method of water delivery ever invented. The energy we waste using bottled water would be enough to power 190,000 homes. But refilling your water bottle from the tap requires no expenditure of energy, and zero waste of resources.” –

5. “The Earth Policy Institute estimated that to make the plastic for the [water] bottles [consumed annually] burns up something like 1.5 million barrels of oil, enough to power 100,000 cars for a year.” –

6. “Nearly 90 percent of [water] bottles are not recycled.”

7. “Bottled water is actually much less regulated than tap water. There are a number of studies in which we find arsenic, disinfection byproducts and bacteria in bottled water.” –, quoting Gina Solomon

8. 30 million water bottles are thrown away every day, and each one of them takes 1000 years to biodegrade. –

9. “In one case, bottled water labeled as “Alaska Premium Glacier Drinking Water: Pure Glacier Water from the Last Unpolluted Frontier” was actually drawn from Public Water System #111241 in Juneau.” –

10. Buying one gallon’s worth of bottled water is three times more expensive than buying one gallon of gasoline. –

If all that wasn’t enough to convince you not to buy bottled water, consider this: “Instead of relying on a mostly preexisting infrastructure of underground pipes and plumbing, delivering bottled water—often from places as far-flung as France, Iceland or Maine—burns fossil fuels and results in the release of thousands of tons of harmful emissions. Since some bottled water is also shipped or stored cold, electricity is expended for refrigeration. Energy is likewise used in bottled water processing. In filtration, an estimated two gallons of water is wasted for every gallon purified.” –


Now, here are tips for alternatives to buying bottled water:


-Get a filter for your tap (unless your tap water is quite good in the first place). There are many ways to go about doing this, from getting a Brita-filter to go over your faucet spout to installing one right into the sink system.

– Nalgene bottles are great.

-Brita pitchers are also really great for those who can’t get the faucet filters (e.g. college students).

-For barbecues, parties, and other events, use pitchers or water dispensers that you can use over and over again. In conjunction with these, try to also provide reusable cups instead of disposable cups, and if you must use disposables, try to get recyclable disposables.