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Christmas gifts


Christmas is rapidly approaching so we thought it would be a good idea to give you some green inspiration for presents this year.

So we’ll start with “that” person. Every family has one – the relative who is almost impossible to buy for at Christmas.

This year, instead of trudging the high street hoping for inspiration, why not give them a gift from Oxfam Unwrapped?  It’s a great idea which involves buying a gift for those who really need it.

Your friend or relative receives a gift card and magnet, telling them how their “gift” has been used and there’s a huge range of ideas to choose from.  

According to Oxfam, 967 million people in the world are hungry, and a child dies every five seconds of hunger-related causes. A gift of just £10 can feed a hungry family for a month – or you can choose from other options such as the planting of 25 trees (£8), tools for farming (£30) or school books (£8).

If your Unwrapped gift costs more than £50, your relative also receives a free gift box and celebrity DVD.

There are gifts in the range to suit people of all tastes from bookworms or animal lovers to DIY fans or eco-warriors.  You can see the full range here.

Oxfam also has a range of “real” gifts for family and friends, including fairtrade items, energy saving gifts or gifts from sustainable sources. For example, you could buy a solar battery charger for £12.71 or a wind-up torch at £19.56.


There’s a good range of food gifts from Fairtrade luxury chocolates to Christmas puddings and stocking fillers such as Fairtrade chocolate coins (£1.95).

Children’s gifts include the top-selling cardboard rocket, made from recycled cardboard (£29.35) and the Doll’s House (£26.42) which has an eco-friendly twist for a favourite toy.


Before the dolls move in, the whole thing needs to be decorated so it’s great for those who love paint and crayons.  It’s made from at least 75% recycled cardboard and can be folded away for easy storage.


Or how about buying a child the Best Eco Book Ever – an activity book which explores topics like recycling, ecology and the environment in a fun way. (£4.95)

If you are buying for people who aren’t averse to charity shop finds, then the Oxfam site is brimming with second-hand ideas.  Items from Oxfam shops all over the UK are available online and you can pick up anything from pre-owned Playstation games to Spiderman toys.

For example, a keen stamp collector would love a First Day Cover envelope with stamps – some are available from as far back as the World Cup in 1966.

People interested in living a greener lifestyle would probably appreciate a copy of one of the Green Guide range of books.  You can browse the titles here, including the Green Guide for Christmas (£4.99) and the Green Guide for Home and Household which is available at a special offer price of  £7.49 for Christmas.

 Green Guide - the directory for planet-friendly l

The range also includes Pocket Green Guides to England, Scotland and Wales for only £1.49 and EcoEscape UK (with free cyclometer) which includes green places to stay, eco days out and local food and drink (£8.99).

Staying with the green bookworm theme, I’m hoping someone will buy me Tamsin Blanchard’s book, ‘Green Is the New Black’. It’s a must-have and is available brand new from Amazon at £6.74, although personally, I’d rather be given a pre-owned copy. These start from only £1.07 – and it’s much more planet friendly to extend the life of someone’s discarded book 🙂


Many online retailers now have a range of eco-gifts, including top retailer, I Want One of  (IWOOT)

Their wind-up phone charger (£4.99) provides up to 8 minutes of talk time from a 3 minute wind – a lifesaver when you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere and your phone has died.  

I also love their Sun Jar – an ingenious and pretty lighting concept from designer Tobias Wong. Instead of storing  traditional jam, this jam jar stores sunshine – and automatically turns itself on when it gets dark.  You just sit it on your windowsill to soak up the sun and its solar charging panel and low voltage bulb do the rest! 


IWOOT is also stocking a Mini Kin green power generator for Christmas. It costs £30 but sounds great. A wind-powered battery charger, it straps to your arm or your bike (or pretty much anything really!) and its propeller powers a turbine which creates enough energy to power up a variety of gadgets. You can plug the battery unit into your iPod, mobile phone or PDA. It also has a back up battery pack with USB connector – but cycling in the wind is so much more planet friendly 🙂

IWOOT has a wide range of unusual gifts for the friend who has everything. I think the keyring featuring “permanent” bubble wrap sounds great – an ideal stocking filler for someone who just loves to pop bubble wrap. (It’s highly addictive as all true-poppers know only too well!)

The Friends of the Earth website has a range of eco books, including bargain basement books which start from just £1.99.  (I’ve already put their How to Grow Organic Vegetables and Herbs (£8.99) on my wishlist.)

Or how about buying someone the Friends of the Earth fundraising calendar, which features images from around the world (£7.50).

And when it comes to wrapping up all your gifts, remember to use alternatives to traditional gift wrap whenever you can. For example, the glossy pages of an unwanted magazine are great (you can use car magazines or fashion magazines for adults and old comics for children’s gifts.)

Some gifts look lovely without any wrapping at all – or you could recycle gift bags from previous pressies. (We have a couple of bottle bags in our family that have been doing the rounds for at least three years :))

And, when thinking green, remember that you need to go beyond the gift-giving. I love outdoor Christmas lights but we ditched ours a couple of years ago because of the energy they wasted. 

This year, we’re switching on again – but we’re using outdoor solar lights. The Eco-Savers lights (a string of 50) are £19.25 from Amazon and you won’t need to feel guilty about lighting up your house.

Special note – I’m excited about a new environmental website that I’m involved in called The Big Green Guide. Eventually, we hope The Big Green will be a one-stop shop for everything eco – from advice on renewable energy and greening your home to news on inspiring projects from around the globe.

It’s early days at the moment and we’re just starting to add content but we’ve started things off with a Cut the Christmas Carbon Campaign, which includes lots of ideas on making your Christmas greener this year, so we’d love you to join in. 🙂




The new boss of Britain’s Environment Agency has warned that stretches of our coastline are doomed and will be reclaimed by the sea in years to come.

Lord Smith of Finsbury said it is impossible both in financial and engineering terms to defend all of our coast and in some areas, people will have to be evacuated as the sea moves in.

According to a report in The Independent, the agency is to draw up a list of priority areas for action and Lord Smith has pledged that he will do his best to defend communities where there are significant households.

But he said we can’t escape the fact that the sea is continually eating away at parts of our coast – particularly in East Anglia and parts of the East and South coasts.

He suggested that parts of North East Norfolk and Suffolk face the most immediate risk and said the agency will be talking to people in the worst affected areas about which stretches to protect and those that cannot be defended.

Two years ago, maintenance of sea defences along parts of the Norfolk and Suffolk coast were withdrawn as “fruitless” prompting an angry reaction from local people.

According to Friends of the Earth, global sea level is set to rise by up to a metre over the next 100 years and will accelerate natural coastal erosion..

They point to lowlands around the Wash, the Norfolk and Suffolk coasts, areas around Teesside, the South West and  Lancashire as areas most under threat.

Many saltmarshes and mudflats, home to some of the UK’s most important and spectacular wildlife, are also at risk and at least 60 Sites of Special Scientific Interest are threatened by sea level rise.



Brits need to stop binning electrical gadgets

One of Britain’s largest electrical retailers is calling on the public to recycle more electrical waste.

On the first anniversary of the WEEE initiative (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment), Comet has revealed that almost 70 per cent of UK households are still putting electrical gadgets in the bin.

The firm says research shows that while many people now religiously recycle all their plastic, paper and glass, they still don’t recycle any electrical gadgets.

According to Comet, the amount of electrical rubbish we generate every year in the UK would fill the new Wembley Stadium six times over.

A spokesman for the company says: “Although there has been an improvement in the recycling of electrical goods, people still tend only to recycle larger items like fridges and dishwashers, but all electrical items such as toasters, radios and ice cream makers can be taken to local electrical amenity sites and recycled – and we’d like to encourage more consumers to do their bit.”

The WEEE regulations were introduced in July last year and require manufacturers to pay towards recycling schemes while stores and suppliers must offer to take back old goods from customers.

The new regulations were introduced to help combat the growing amount of e-waste which is going to landfill sites – estimated at around 1.2 million tonnes per year.

So, why is it that we recycle our everyday waste, but simply bin old electrical gadgets – a lot of which contain dangerous chemicals in their parts?

Well, I’m sure it could have something to do with the fact that few people have easy access to facilities that will take their cast-off radios, computers or games consoles.

Try siting electrical “bins” alongside the containers for paper and plastic – and I reckon they’ll soon be full to overflowing.

Alternatively, maybe we need a few more entrepreneurs like this one around 



People all over Britain are being urged to take part in World Environment Day next week.

The global event, which takes place next Thursday, June 5, was established in 1972 by the United Nations and this year will be hosted by New Zealand.

But countries around the world will be supporting the event, which the UN says is intended to “give a human face to environmental issues and empower people to become active agents of sustainable development.”

A huge variety of events will be taking place including street rallies, bike parades, tree planting and clean-up campaigns.  And if you’re looking for ideas on what to do, then you’re bound to find a good idea in the World Environment Day alphabet which suggests 80 different ways in which you can take part.

UN officials say we should use this year’s event to examine the state of our environment and consider what each of us must do to help preserve life on earth.

Britain’s Environment Agency is urging people to take part and you can visit its website to make an environmental promise.  It has promised that a new website which goes live today will give lots of ideas and provide a range of resources for people planning projects.

It is hoped that schools, universities and colleges will take part in the event and there are also many community events planned.  In London, there will be a green auction and tree planting events. Check out what is happening in your area by clicking on the regional map on the Environment Agency website.
And don’t forget that just four days later, National Liftshare Day will be taking place in the UK.  Businesses and organisations are being urged to set up their own liftshare scheme and individuals can log onto the website and try to arrange to share transport with another traveller. is a completely FREE service with members all over the country who regularly – or occasionally – share a journey to reduce C02 (and fuel costs!) To date, it has helped to arrange more than one million shared journeys and currently has more than 200,000 members.



Controversy is mounting over plans to bury carbon dioxide in a bid to keep greenhouse gas emissions below danger levels.

The International Environment Agency says carbon capture and storage (CCS) could be the silver bullet in the fight against climate change.

CCS is a means of separating out carbon dioxide when burning fossil fuels, and then dumping it – underground, or under the sea bed.

But critics argue that it is unsafe, has never been tested on a commercial scale and could slow down any move towards real green power sources.

And while the IEA says any challenges could be overcome and the WWF believes it could be a viable stop-gap –  some environmental groups, including Greenpeace, describe it as “a false hope.”

Experts have warned that further rises in climate temperature will bring more damaging heat waves, water shortages and flooding and supporters of CCS claim it is the technological answer we’ve been looking for.
Already, a number of major companies are said to be  “preparing” for CCS projects – but Greenpeace says the reality is that the technology is not yet viable.

It says although supporters of the planned new coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth have made much of the idea of “clean coal”, the plant will simply be ready to incorporate CCS when the technology becomes viable – and that might be never.

Greenpeace has criticised Eon for wanting to build a coal power plant that will “pump out as much CO2 as thirty developing countries, year on year” in the hope that at some point CCS will be available.

Opponents say we face the prospect of massive emissions for the next 40 years from a new generation of coal-burning power stations – approved on the basis of a promise that never materialises.




Here’s a great collaboration that’s just started between two existing organisations, Eco-Libris and BookMooch.

Now, I’m not much of a reader myself, but my partner and my mum both read avidly, and I’m constantly struggling to find enough material for them. They share books with each other, and with friends, but still run out of titles they like, especially as everyone has different favourite authors. As well as this, at some stage, someone ends up with a book that everyone else has read, and is now essentially useless.

BookMooch is a brilliant idea for extending your effective circle of reading friends, and works a little bit like an online library, or like a video rental site. One you’re registered, you can type in the details of books you are prepared to give away, and you get one tenth of a “Mooch Point” for each that you put in. Other Moochers can browse or search the database for books they want to read, and you send them the book. For each you send, you get one point, which entitles you to receive one book from another member. You can keep the book forever if you want, or you can relist it. The only restriction is that you must donate at least one book for each five you receive.

Eco-Libris sells packs of stickers, for $1 per sticker. You put the sticker on a book, and they work with not-for-profit ecological organisations to plant a tree to “balance out” the environmental effect of that book. Most people start with a pack of 25 stickers. Now Eco-Libris and BookMooch have teamed up, so that you can use your Eco-Libris stickers to earn extra Mooch Points, one for every 10 trees you help to get planted.


If you have spare Mooch points, you can also donate them to one of the supported charities, so you have lots of different ways of helping the planet. I think both the ideas are really good, and there are already redundant paperbacks hanging around in my sitting room that I have mentally earmarked to offer up, and not only will it tidy the house a bit, but also set my bookworms up with a bit more matter to digest.


Happy Green Year