Dreaming of a Green Xmas: Compost Bins, Carbon Offsets, and All

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‘Tis the season—media pubs are rolling out their holiday gift-giving recommendations (see Salon‘s very pricey list here and The New Yorker‘s even pricier male gift guide here), people can be found discussing Secret Santas, and office holiday parties are already in full swing. So, in this era of carbon neutrality, it’s no wonder, retailers are already making a play for the green Christmas market. According to the Wall Street Journal many companies are looking to package their gifts in a more ecofriendly fashion by offering biodegradable packaging or none at all. Different websites are dedicating pages to greener giving ideas, pushing soy-based candles and compost containers that will be shipped to you in biodegradable peanuts. Customers of Gaiam.com can offset the carbon emissions of shipping their gifts through the company and TerraPass, a carbon offset group, has gift certificates so you can offset the emissions of your friends and families (you know, if they aren’t as environmentally conscious as you are).

It’s hard to not be a Grinch about this whole thing, though, because it all still seems like consumption—or ways to make yourself feel better about consuming. For instance, Gaiam.com recommends that you buy a reusable shopping bag and then offset the shipping cost for $2. So, if I send my dad a reusable shopping bag nearly 2,000 miles (Broomfield, CO, where Gaiam’s HQ is, to Boston, MA, where my dad lives), it is only going to cost me $2 to neutralize the effects? I find that very hard to believe, but I suppose the whole “are carbon offsets really green?” is a whole other discussion. But, when you consider the miles driven to malls and the non-reusable/-biodegradable wrapping that goes on at the likes of Macy’s, shopping online and then offsetting shipping seems like the responsible thing to do.

Although, how about just not consuming at all? That seems like the greenest possible holiday season for Mother Earth…

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