As we celebrate Earth Day, the most important action we can take is to pass along environmental awareness to others. We can help our friends and family think differently about the planet, its animals and people, and the atmosphere that gives all of us life.
Here are seven gifts that can help change others’ thinking, disrupting their normal habits by engaging them with the environmental consequences of the many small habits that, when added up across the whole population, do terrible damage to the world and its inhabitants.
From gifts that make people aware of their carbon footprint to those that help them pay attention to the small products they use and toss away daily, there’s something for everyone you want to share your passion for preserving the environment.
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Almost everything you do and use in your life contributes to carbon dioxide emissions that are warming the planet. With 50 trillion tons of excess CO2 already in the atmosphere, we need to reduce new emissions to prevent global warming from getting worse. But most of us still need to do more than we are to eliminate CO2 pollution from our lives.
Carbon offsets are a way of making up for your poor environmental choices. We recommend them not as a gift that helps make your giftee’s bad environmental behavior okay, but to raise their awareness of the impact of their everyday choices. Our list offers two interesting choices, but many more options are available if you search the web. Some carbon offset programs are sketchy because they keep far too much of the fees or are unverified and unenforceable, so do your due diligence before deciding. We use both of the following carbon offset programs.
Climeworks is a Zurich-based developer of direct-air carbon capture and sequestration technology. They suck CO2 out of the atmosphere using a chemical-and-heat process to isolate the CO2 and turn it into calcium carbonate by injecting the recovered CO2 into the ground. The CO2 will remain there for centuries, or longer. They operate 14 carbon capture sites around the world.
Consider giving a friend a Climeworks Explorer subscription that stores 187.3 pounds of CO2 each month for $8 a month. Then, show your friend how much CO2 their daily activities produce using a carbon footprint calculator. Point out that the 2,247 pounds of CO2 they sequester annually only offsets approximately the average American CO2 emissions produced by the clothing they purchase.
CarbonFund.org offers a wide range of carbon offset options, such as sequestration by planting trees, reducing emissions from cookstoves in low-income countries, and supporting the construction of renewable energy projects. If your friends prefer something more human-centric than putting rocks in the ground, Carbonfund will show you the right options.
Stop Using Wasteful Products
It’s very hard for the average person to escape from the myriad wasteful and environmentally damaging products we use. Labeling does not tell you what a product will do to the atmosphere and seldom explains the product’s environmental or health risks. But we can make better choices, and helping a friend rethink a purchasing habit can get them thinking differently across all purchase decisions.
We have reviewed a lot of products over the last year and suggest three categories where a change can be simple and save money.
Let’s start with toilet paper. Check out our bamboo and recycled toilet paper ratings for a selection of bathroom tissue that does not come from paper harvested from forests — most U.S. TP is sourced from Canadian forests. But fast-growing bamboo can be harvested sustainably to make a rugged but soft bathroom paper with a much lower environmental impact. Who Gives A Crap and Reel Paper are our favorite choices on the list, based on our use.
According to ResearchAnd Markets, a data research company, 543.75 billion cotton swabs were sold in 2017 and are expected to grow in volume by 3.4% a year until 2026. That is too many swabs, period. There is a better way, the LastObject Last Swab, a reusable swab available in ear-cleaning (knobbly) and makeup-applying versions (smooth) for $12. We’ve used ours hundreds of times and Last Object promises it can be used hundreds more before needing to be replaced.
Our meat consumption is a terrible drain on the planet, but getting a friend to put down a burger is no easy trick. Consider getting them to focus on their dogs’ meat consumption, and start them with a selection of Jiminy’s treats for our canine companions. Our dogs went nuts for Jiminy’s Chewy Pumpkin & Carrot treats.
These cricket protein-based treats produce 99.99% less CO2 than meat-based treats and reduce water usage in manufacturing by the same incredible percentage. It takes a lot less land, feed, water, and methane (in cow and pig farts) to make a pound of cricket protein than meat-sourced protein. And the treats are better for our dogs. We also suggest the Chewy Sweet Potato & Peas and crunchy Cricket Crave treats.
As the pandemic ends, there is a fear that millions of people will take to the roads and airways to travel, raising CO2 emissions and air pollution levels above pre-2020 levels. It’s called revenge pollution when we over-consume to make up for lost time. What if we could influence our friends to travel more deliberately, choosing only the most important reasons to hop on a plane or in the old internal combustion vehicle to get away?
Give the gift of purposeful travel with Tinggly, a unique combination of travel voucher and carbon offsets that will intrigue and delight the homebound. You purchase a gift box that includes a travel voucher that can be used to pay for part of more than 600 experiences in more than 100 countries. Your friend can review the available options and book a trip to enjoy zip-lining, biking, dining, and other experiences. Tinggly also offsets 200% of the CO2 emissions associated with the experience.
Ask your giftee to spend time savoring their plans, enjoying the trip, and reducing the aimless travel that they might do instead.
Food and Waste; Start With Growing
We’d love to end the wastage of 40% of the food grown in the U.S., but that’s a big order. How about sharing the gift of growing your own food and herbs at home in the backyard or in a window garden? It will tune your friends into the seasons and the cadence of plant growth, an awareness many of us have lost.
Check out the range of micro-gardens and bottle gardens available from Urban Leaf or help your friends build their own vertical garden with these instructions.
If you want to encourage ambitious climate awareness, introduce your friends to climate restoration. This is the idea that we can remove CO2 from the atmosphere to restore the environment to its pre-industrial CO2 levels, potentially lowering the global thermostat and eventually reverse rising sea levels.
The easiest and most natural way to start restoring the climate is by planting trees. Not just one tree in the backyard, which we encourage everyone to do, but also by supporting tree-planting initiatives like Earth Day’s Canopy Project or through CarbonFund.org, where planting 20 trees costs just $10. Both programs are highly reliable.
Here is the basic math of a tree’s impact on CO2 levels: A young tree captures about 12.5 pounds of CO2 annually and a mature tree ingests 48 pounds on average. Some larger trees can remove much more. If you plant 20 trees, over 10 years they will take up about 12,100 pounds of CO2. If you plant 50 trees, the 20-year CO2 capture volume will be approximately 30,250 pounds, or about what the average American produces through their daily activities and purchases.
Those trees keep giving, working to process CO2 into energy until they die. Noble work, which you can support in the name of a friend. If you gift a friend 50 trees a year for the next 10 years, you can wipe away their childhood emissions in about a decade. Then ask them to address their adult emissions — or lower them.
Earth Day Is the Future Taking Shape
The human species faces many challenges, but none as pressing as simply understanding and living in harmony with the world. When we realize our impact on the planet and our fellow animals, we can change. But it takes a living example to make a transformation of thinking possible for a large number of people.
Giving a friend a paradigm-shattering gift — one that wakes them to the environmental consequences of their actions — can influence their entire circle of friends, family, and colleagues. Consider adding an Earth Day present to your annual celebration of this beautiful world, and make it a climate-positive one.