Six No Carbon Christmas Gifts

Let’s put the holidays on a Climate Diet

Paul Greenberg
3 min readNov 26, 2021

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This Christmas you will add over 1400 pounds of CO2 to the atmosphere. Holiday lights, heavy meat consumption, cranking up the heat to make guests toasty — all of these things burn fossil fuels and all increase your annual carbon footprint for the year by more than 5%. Sadly, many of these things are out of your control if you’re invited to stew under the heat of someone else’s thermostat. But there is one thing you have eminent domain over no matter where you spend the holidays: gifts. Is it truly necessary to buy that child a Scruf-a-Luv or a Magic Mixie and all the petro-driven plastic with its attendant carbon shipping costs? I think not. In this era of climate crisis a much more thoughtful gift would be one that shows your care not only for your loved one but for the planet as well. Here then are 6 quick ideas to put your gift giving on a climate diet

Help out with a bike share membership: Know someone who would love to exercise and would like to be independent of mass transit or a car for local needs? Search for a program in your gift recipient’s hometown and look for the option to pur­chase an e‑gift certificate. A comprehensive list of US bike share programs organized by state can be found here

Contribute to a young person’s college education The average annual cost at a private college in the US is now $38,185 per year. Public out of state will set parents back an average of $22,698 per year and public in state $10,388 according US News and World Report. In other words, friends and family with kids will need every penny in the coming years to help them put a way a big enough savings nut. Ugift is a service that allows family and friends to easily donate to a 529 college plan, a savings tool that holds funds in a trust for a student’s education. You can also here for a state‑by‑state plan guide to setting up 529s.

Contribute to a loved one’s retirement The average American has saved only about $65,000 for retirement — far short of what he or she will need. As with college savings your friends and family need IRA contributions much more than they need a set of golf clubs. And remember that given annual market returns an IRA gift given, say, 30 years before your friend retires could more than quadruple by the time your…

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Paul Greenberg

New York Times bestselling author of Four Fish as well as The Climate Diet and Goodbye Phone, Hello World paulgreenberg.org