Posts Tagged 'Books'

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. 🙂





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.



Major UK book publisher, HarperCollins has just announced that it will be printing its entire paperback range on environmentally friendly paper which will come from sustainable areas where the environment and the lives of forest-dependent communities are protected.  Shame the UK reading community can’t be similarly protected from Cheri Blair’s imminent autobiography.


fsc02.jpgA major UK book publisher, HarperCollins, has just announced that from October 2007 onwards, it will be printing its entire paperback range on environmentally friendly paper. The first paperback to be printed this way will be Josephine Cox’s new novel, “The Loner”, hitting bookshelves on October 1st. In a partnership with the Forest Stewardship Council, all mass market paperbacks will carry the FSC tick-tree symbol, indicating that the paper has come from sustainably-managed forests in which the environment and the lives of forest-dependent people are protected.


With HarperCollins’ other books including hardbacks, trade paperbacks and some colour titles that are already printed on FSC or recycled paper, this amounts to 33m books, which is about about 55% their entire catalogue.

As one of the biggest fiction publishers, carrying titles of top selling authors such as Michael Crichton, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Agatha Christie, J R R Tolkien and C S Lewis, this is particularly significant just before the Christmas book-buying rush. It’s also a testimony to the changing demands of ordinary consumers, as it follows a survey in which 94% of UK book buyers said they worried about the environment, and 75% wanted more books to be printed on environmentally friendly paper.


I think this is a very important move, and other publishers will doubtless follow the lead. It’s a great demonstration of how a change of mindset in consumers creates the possibility of industries changing their behaviour on a large scale for environmental good. It’ll also make me feel better about the green credentials of some of my Christmas gifts this year.