The holiday gift-giving season is underway. The holidays provide a unique opportunity to give both a meaningful gift and one that will help rainforests at the same time. This month, I’ve put together great rainforest-saving ideas that will work for any number of holiday gift-giving situations. Happy Holidays!
1. Sustainably Crafted Gifts from the Rainforest
There are local artisans throughout the tropical regions of the world who sustainably collect seeds and other materials from the rainforest in order to make beautifully crafted jewelry, accessories, home furnishings and baskets. Fortunately, you can easily find these items in a store near you or by purchasing them online. Buying a sustainably crafted rainforest gift helps create a broader rainforest economy by giving indigenous tribes and local people the opportunity to make a living in ways that are sustainable. The more alternative markets to destructive logging, cattle ranching and monoculture farming there are, the better it is for the rainforest. You also have the pleasure of giving unique, meaningful gifts that come from the rainforest, the oldest ecosystem on earth—and the receiver also shares in that pleasure. A triple win!
Here’s a list of retail and online stores that sell genuine rainforest crafts. (Some items come from areas outside the tropics. To support the rainforest, be sure your purchase comes from a tropical region.)
Ecostasy is an online collection of totally unique handcrafted items from furniture to bedding to stationary. Definitely higher-end, all items are made from sustainable sources and are truly pieces of art in themselves. The company sources directly from artisans, cooperatives and designers and controls its export and import process.
Global Girlfriend imports and distributes fair trade household goods, jewelry, fashion accessories, gifts, toys and more, handmade from mostly renewable sources by more than 80 artisan groups of women in more than 20 countries throughout Latin America, Africa and Asia.
The Rainforest Site
This website offers a mixture of merchandise—some crafted by local artisans in tropical areas, some not. However, the site donates a portion of the proceeds from each item sold to preserve rainforest land. For each item, the site lists the actual amount of square feet of rainforest your purchase will ensure. If you choose carefully, you can preserve rainforest land and support the work of a local rainforest artist at the same time!
The Rainforest Site
2. Rainforest-friendly Gifts for the Host or Hostess
Instead of bringing the traditional bottle of wine to a holiday party or dinner, here are several inventive rainforest-friendly ideas that will delight your host or hostess.
Bring a bouquet of Rainforest Alliance Certified flowers. Did you know that the majority of fresh-cut flowers in Western countries are imported, often from tropical areas? The Foreign Trade Division reports that nearly 70 percent of cut flowers sold in the United States are imported—and other reports put that figure close to 80 percent! Pesticides are a huge issue with growing these flowers in tropical environments–and worker safety. A Rainforest Alliance Certified bouquet of flowers ensures rainforest-friendly farming practices and better working conditions. You can find them at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Sam's Club and Costco. Look for the seal!
Shade-grown organic coffee is the best choice for the rainforest. An ethically of fairly traded coffee is important as well to ensure workers receive fair pay. Shade-grown coffee plantations allow for much more biodiversity in tropical areas than their sun-grown counterparts and they use far fewer chemicals—or none at all, when grown organically. And the coffee is delicious! Whole Foods carries organic shade grown and Rainforest Alliance Certified coffees—all are good choices. You can also choose "bird friendly" coffee, which is usually shade grown as well.
Check out the Audubon shade grown organic, Rainforest Alliance Certified "Shade Song French Roast" and "Rainforest Blend" coffees—they are widely distributed in many markets and even pharmacies like Walgreens and have wonderful flavor.
Or online, check out ACEER's corporate sponsor, Golden Valley Farms Coffee Roasters. Golden Valley Farms "Amazon Forest" coffee from Peru is shade-grown, organic and certified by the Smithsonian Institution as migratory bird friendly. A portion of every purchase of "Amazon Forest" coffee will support a coop of family coffee farmers through the ACEER Sustainable Development Grant Program. ACEER will also provide critical learning materials to Amazon school children and offer teacher training programs through our AMIGOS Partnership for Education. Go to www.goldenvallyfarms.com and be sure to choose "Amazon Forest."
Mate is a traditional South American infused drink made from steeping the dried leaves of the yerba mate plant in hot water. Yerba Mate grows in the rainforest and one particular company that cultivates it sustainably and pays fair wages is Guayaki. Additionally, Guayaki invests heavily in reforesting Brazil's endangered Atlantic forest. The loose tea makes a great hostess gift or try the exotic Mate Chocolatté! Guayaki is available at Whole Foods, Trader Joes and many other markets. Go to www.guayaki.com for more information.
This is a great one for health-conscious friends! Zamu is an exotic rainforest botanical beverage that features juice of the camu camu berry. High in vitamin C and antioxidants, this is a power packed "feel good" non-alcoholic beverage that comes in a beautiful dark bottle. Made by the Amazon Herb Company, it must be ordered online. The company works closely with 17 different indigenous communities to sustainably extract the botanicals. Their sourcing operation effectively preserves about 300,000 acres of rainforest land. And the Amazon Herb Company uses a portion of profits to give back to the communities and support rainforest conservation groups like ACEER! Go to www.amazonherb.net for more information. (The company’s founder, “Amazon John” Easerling along with his beautiful and talented wife, Olivia Newton-John Easterling, serve on the board of ACEER!)
3. Rainforest-friendly Stocking Stuffers
Shade-grown, Certified Chocolate
A chocolate bar made with shade-grown or Rainforest Alliance Certified chocolate makes a great stocking stuffer. Cocoa cultivation is hugely destructive to rainforests, especially in Africa, where most of the world's cocoa is grown. In recent years, many of the large chocolate manufacturers have partnered with the Rainforest Alliance to improve their environmental practices and conditions and pay for farm workers. As with coffee, shade-grown cocoa is much better for the rainforest in terms of preserving biodiversity. Choose organic, shade-grown and/or Rainforest Alliance Certified chocolate for this one. The chocolate is usually very good and you'll be helping the rainforest too! We recommend Endangered Species, which you can find at Whole Foods and many other supermarkets. Look for the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal on the bar. (The Organic Dark Chocolate with Cacao Nibs, Yacon and Acai is an excellent choice.) Additionally, Endangered Species Chocolate donates 10 percent of net profits to organizations that support species conservation, habitat preservation and humanitarian efforts. You can check them out online at www.chocolatebar.com. Some other manufacturers offering fantastic rainforest-friendly chocolate bars are Newman's Own Organics and Shaman Organic Chocolates and many others.
Rainforest-friendly Beauty Products
It's always nice to receive a luxurious hand lotion or bath product. The rainforest abounds with botanicals that nourish, restore and revitalize our skin and bodies. And by choosing the right product, you can help support sustainable markets for the rainforest's local communities.
Brazil nuts are cultivated only in the Amazon rainforest—and Brazil nut trees only grow and thrive in forested areas. Thus, the Brazil nut trade provides sustainable income to thousands of locals in the Amazon. Brazil nut oil is a great ingredient in beauty products—seek out Brazil nut oil beauty products as gifts. The Body Shop's Brazil Nut Body Butter makes a fantastic gift. The Body Shop gets community trade Brazil nut oil from Peru, sourced through a unique fair trade program which ensures all producers and workers are paid a fair and living wage. The nuts are harvested from small farms and grown using traditional techniques, allowing the farmers to earn a fair income from an activity that fits their traditional way of life. Go to www.thebodyshop-usa.com for more info.
Alba Botanica has an entire line of rainforest skin and hair-care products. The Andiroba and Brazil nut oils it sources from the rainforest are certified by the Rainforest Alliance to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards. Alba Botanica also supports rainforest education and sustainability through the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research (ACEER). These products are widely available at health food stores and beauty stores. They are reasonably priced. Go to www.albabotanica.com for more information.
4. Rainforest-saving Corporate Gifts
Donate or gift a donation to a reputable rainforest conservation organization.
Survival of the world’s rainforests largely depends on the success of these organizations. (It's a smart business move too as it provides a write off, requires no shipping and boosts the image of your company.)
The Nature's Conservancy www.nature.org offers a great Adopt-an-Acre program for projects either in Brazil's endangered Atlantic Forest t or on the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica. The receiver will enjoy knowing how the gifted contribution is helping.
The Rainforest Action Network www.ran.org also has a terrific Protect-an-Acre program, which empowers indigenous people to protect and steward their own land.
Education is key to saving rainforests. Of course, the Amazon Center for Education and Environmental Research www.aceer.org is on the forefront of this movement. A donation to ACEER will serve to let your customers learn more about ACEER and the important and far-reaching work the organization does.
Give a copy of 50 Simple Steps to Save the World's Rainforests!
This is an especially great gift if your company is environmentally focused. It's a useful gift that will keep on giving as more people will learn how their everyday choices can help save rainforests. It is available at Amazon.com or visit www.50StepsRainforest.com.
5. Rainforest-saving Gifts with a Purpose
These gifts all address different aspects of a critical rainforest issue—resource extraction. Give a gift that is part of the solution to issues such as logging, oil drilling and gold mining.
Give a RainTee!
For every RainTee sold a tree is planted in a critically endangered rainforest. Additionally, RainTees donates school supplies to children around the world and features their artwork on its apparel. (RainTee founder, Beth Doane, is also a member of ACEER’s President’s Council.) Visit www.rain-tees.com.
Give a S'well stainless steel reusable bottle!
Oil drilling is hugely destructive in rainforest areas. One of the worst environmental disasters in history occurred in the Ecuadorian rainforest. A multi-million dollar lawsuit filed against Chevron is still pending. (To learn more, go to www.chevron-toxico.org.)
Cutting back on our use of plastic, which is derived from petroleum, is an important piece of the solution. Investing in a cool, reusable bottle will make it all that much easier. The S'well bottle www.swellbottle.com has a smart design, comes in gorgeous colors and keeps beverages cold or hot for hours. Your purchase of a S'well Bottle also supports WaterAid, a non-profit organization that provides sustainable safe water, hygiene and sanitation to the world's poorest communities. The original design is $35.00 and is a perfect gift.
Give recycled gold jewelry!
Gold mining produces tons of waste—literally. The organization Earthworks estimates that the production of one gold ring produces 20 tons of mine waste. Gold mining is particularly destructive in tropical areas around the world. The large mines require roads and open up more isolated areas to settlers and small-scale miners, who further destroy the rainforest with destructive activities and who sometimes spread disease to indigenous populations, where they still exist. But perhaps even more destructive is the release of toxic chemicals such as mercury and cyanide, used in the process of gold extraction, into the environment. Small-scale miners, in particular, tend not to dispose of mercury properly, putting themselves, others and delicate tropical ecosystems at risk.
Give recycled gold jewelry! For the rainforests and the well-being of our earth, reusable and recycled is the way to go. The good news is that there are retailers who specialize in recycled gold designs. Brilliant Earth, based out of San Francisco, California, is my personal favorite. Visit www.brilliantearth.com. (The company also uses conflict-free Canadian diamonds.)You can give that special someone a high-end gift and help rainforests!
These are just a few ideas. You may come up with many more. Just remember that infusing a little rainforest-saving in your gift-giving spreads even more good juju to all.