Green Gifts for Everyone on Your List

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Green Gifts for Everyone on Your List

Green gifts are produced with the environment and workers in mind, are not made from or grown with toxic chemicals and will be enjoyed by the recipient for years to come. Avoid gifting items this year that may be made from harmful materials such as PVC plastic, cotton with chemical finishes or food and drink with pesticide residues. Here are some suggestions on how to leave these undesirable substances out of your thoughtful gifts.



Look for wooden toys made from solid wood rather than pressed wood, which may contain harmful formaldehyde glues. Sturdy and classic, wooden toys are sure to become favorites and may even be around for your children’s children to play with. Large wooden animal puzzles and chopping vegetable sets from Melissa and Doug will entertain a busy toddler for at least 20 minutes at a time, possibly even longer! Haba wooden toys are perfect for little exploring hands, eyes and mouths. Non-toxic finishes ensure teethers will not ingest harmful substances.  If buying plastic, look for PVC-free toys from manufacturers such as Lamaze Infant Development, Sassy and Tiny Love.


  • Village Toy Company in Grosse Pointe
  • The Doll Hospital and Toy Soldier Shop in Berkely
  • Ladels Children’s Book Boutique in Detroit


  • Island Treasure Toys
  • Oompa

Why: Colorful plastic toys immediately grab the attention of children and adults alike. But, many plastic toys are made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC), the most environmentally harmful plastic from production through use and disposal. PVC manufacturing releases large quantities of dioxin, a potent and persistent human carcinogen, into the environment. Additives used to make PVC either soft or durable are problematic during playtime: phthalates make soft PVC pliable and heavy metals like cadmium and lead make hard PVC durable. Phthalates can affect the hormone system and are especially dangerous in toys that children put in their mouths. Lead and cadmium are known neurotoxins. Find out what is in your child’s toy at



At this age, children have the patience to enjoy puzzles, board games, and card games. They also delight in the challenge and time spent with friends and parents. Checkers, chess, and dominoes are classics that can be found with wooden playing pieces.

Where: Widely available at most toy departments. Online: Haba creates many unique games such as Herd the Sheep and Crazy Cats. Eeboo offers games such as Magnetic Fairy Checkers and Rhyming Words Puzzle Pairs.

Blocks and more

Lego and Playmobil toys are PVC-free. Lego kits range from simple for younger children to intricate, complex constructions for older children. The world of Playmobil is vast. Pirates and pilots, vikings and queens, and all of the accessories needed to complete the scene are available to suit any child’s imagination.

Where: Widely available at most toy departments and Village Toy Company in Grosse Pointe

Dolls: Wooden, yarn-haired dolls of various ethnicities and hand painted furniture from Ryan’s Room compliment any doll house. Boys and girls alike enjoy playing with Waldorf-inspired dolls of different sizes made with wool, cotton, and other natural materials.




Organic clothing

Look for natural clothing, without pesticides or chemical dyes and finishes, such as organic cotton, natural wool, pesticide-free bamboo, and hemp.


  • The Little Seedling in Ann Arbor
  • Sweet Peas & Little Sprouts in Plymouth
  • Root and Sprout in Birmingham
  • Whole Foods in Troy, West Bloomfield, and Ann Arbor


Why: Cotton is the most pesticide intensive crop, accounting for 25% of the world’s pesticide usage. Conventional cotton products are often subjected additional chemical finishes. Chlorine bleach, used to whiten conventional clothing, creates the by-product dioxin. Formaldehyde keeps clothing crisp in the stores. These chemicals outgas and are absorbed into a person’s skin and respiratory system. Organic cotton is grown without the use of harmful pesticides and chemicals.

Stuffed Animals

Organic stuffed toys are the purest cuddle choice.

WhereWhole Foods, Toys-R-Us, local toy stores, and certain specialty baby stores.


Why: Made from conventional cotton, stuffed with synthetics and treated with moth proofing chemicals, some stuffed animals are really not that huggable.


Music downloads

One of this year’s hottest gifts happens to be green!

Where: Apple Store and Napster and others. Apple offers the option of a paper or email gift certificate rather than the plastic credit card variety.

Why: Avoid excess packaging and PVC jewel cases.

Makeup or manicure kit

Natural cosmetic companies offer a wide variety of products including tinted moisturizers, lip gloss and lipsticks, mascara, blush, facial powder, nail polish, and more. Encourage your teen to take care of her skin and nails naturally.

Where: Health food stores carry

  • Dr. Hauschka
  • Aubrey Organics
  • Burt’s Bees and others. Burt’s Bees is also widely available in drug stores.


Why: Brushed on our faces or smoothed on our skin, we get up close and

personal with an average of 12 personal care products daily. Some ingredients can have long-term health effects on our immune and reproductive systems, or act as estrogen in our bodies, or even cause developmental effects. The highest levels of some of these chemicals have been detected in women of childbearing age, possibly because of their long-term use of multiple beauty products.


Organic Treats

Natural jerky strips from Pet Promise or Newman’s Own Organics pet treats.



Why: These snacks are naturally tasty for your pet without synthetic preservatives or by products.

Organic Collars, Toys, and Beds

Hemp Frisbees and rope toys, wool balls, and organic fleece mice stuffed with organic catnip will be sure to please even the most finicky of pets.



Why: Buying organic cotton, hemp, and wool products supports sustainable farming and minimizes your pet’s exposure to harmful chemicals.


Organic clothing

Refer to Children’s section for why to choose organic clothes.

Where: Clothing Matters in Grand Rapids 

The Dream Shop in Ann Arbor


Organic Treats

Opt for an entirely organic tower of treats. The delicious treats in these boxes might just convince the fortunate recipient that you don’t have to give up any flavor when you purchase organic foods. In fact, organic foods are often touted as being more flavorful than their conventional counterparts. Gift towers can include fresh apples, oranges, pears, nuts, cookies, wine, cheese, crackers, toffees, and chocolate.

Where: Check if your local health food store can create a gift basket or tower for you or order Online:

Why: Gift boxes and towers have become favorites of many holiday exchanges. Usually, they are filled with preservative-laden popcorn and highly processed foods. Organically produced foods are grown without harmful pesticides and are better for the land, farmers, surrounding agricultural communities and your gift recipient’s health!

Organic wine

Wine is a wonderful gift for the host of a holiday dinner or party.

Where: A wide selection is available at:

  • Woods Fine Wine & Spirits
  • Whole Foods.

Select brands, such as Badger Mountain, Bonterra, or Frey Vineyards (no sulfites added) are available at:

  • Fresh Farms Market (also carries Lolonis, a pesticide-free brand)
  • Oxford Market
  • Papa Joe’s
  • Trader Joe’s
  • Westborn Market
  • Village Food Market
  • Village Wine Shop


  • The Organic Wine Company

Why: Grapes top the list of the most heavily pesticide sprayed produce.

Green Subscriptions

Why not purchase a membership to an organization that works to improve the environment?  One organization in particular springs to mind. Many organizations work hard to provide good information to consumers throughout the year and a gift subscription will provide the necessary funds to continue their work. Your gift recipient will receive important information throughout the year to improve their environment and health. That is a true gift!

-Kate Wimsatt, Winter 2007, updated Fall 2009

Click Green Gifts for a printable pdf version of this article.

Published on November 5, 2009