Green Gifts For Foodies ~ The Garden of Eating - a sinfully good blog about food

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Green Gifts For Foodies

In case you're not sure what to give the food-lovers in your life for Chrismukkah, I've come up with a list of some great environmentally-friendly and socially-conscious gift ideas. These are just a jumping off point but hopefully they'll help you get started. Feel free to add your gift ideas via comments.


A canvas tote bag to help your favorite foodie carry his or her haul home in eco-friendly style.
These are getting quite trendy so you have your pick of some cheekier options (including a "F*@k Plastic" tote) as well as the simpler ones you can buy at any Trader Joe's or Whole Foods, as well as at many more conventional chain supermarkets. Using these sturdy, reusable bags will help cut down on consumption of trees and petroleum and reduce landfill waste. It's nice to have a bunch of these totes for bigger shopping trips.

A stainless steel food container with several stackable compartments is the perfect thing to bring to a restaurant (I got the idea from my wonderful tree-hugger sister-in-law who brings hers whenever we go out to eat) or carry your lunch in to work or on a picnic.
You can order them online from one of the following places:
Or if you're here in the Bay Area and want to skip the shipping materials and expense, you can find them at the Ecology Center (though they were out when I was there recently...):
    A plastic bag dryer to make it easier to re-use plastic bags for produce, etc. Just wash the used bags and hang them on the dryer then store.

    An organic cotton or hemp apron (again no chemical fertilizers or pesticides). Here are a few options.

    Organic dish towels made from cotton or hemp grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers.
    Bamboo cutting boards. These are a beautiful, durable, environmentally-friendly alternative to wood or plastic cutting boards. Bamboo does not require fertilizer or use much water and it grows amazingly quickly, making it an easily renewable resource. Bamboo cutting boards are widely available at most major home stores and even in many supermarkets.
    If you want to look for a specific brand, try to find Bambu, a company that uses organic bamboo for their products:

    Antique plates, dishes, bowls, linens, serving ware, etc. You can find a cool, one of a kind gift at a flea market or antiques shop and recycle and reuse at the same time.

    A stainless steel water bottle. These bottles are catching on quickly as word spreads that the plastic bottles (even the heavy duty Nalgene ones) leech cancer-causing chemicals. Why wait? I recommend switching right now! Kleen Kanteen is one of the main suppliers of the stainless steel bottles - they come in three different sizes with a variety of tops, including a sippy top for babies.


    Buy a gift membership in an organic CSA (community supported agriculture). If you want to support local farmers directly, joining a CSA is the single best way to do it. Buying in to a local farm helps the farmers weather a drought or tough season and withstand the economic pressures of rising land prices, fluctuations in market prices, etc. It also provides you with healthy, fresh produce every week (or other week) and gives you a direct connection to the people who are growing your food. These farms tend to welcome visitors and often will host regular events at the farm to give its members a chance to roll up their sleeves and experience farm life. The more organized ones also offer a weekly newsletter which features wonderful recipes for the food you receive in your produce box that week. All in all, I think this may be my best gift idea!

    • If you live in the Bay area, EatWell Farm is a wonderful option - Nigel Walker and the other folks do an amazing job -- the food is good and the newsletter is so fricking adorable it's almost worth joining just to receive it every week.
    • Full Belly Farm also has a CSA - I know from the farmers market that they have great produce.
    • Those of you who are further a field can do a search for CSAs in your area at the Local Harvest web site:
    Organic wine. You can buy a few choice bottles or go all out by signing up your favorite oenephile for the San Francisco-based Organic Wine Company's wine of the month club. I have some friends who got this as a wedding gift and love it.
    Organic, fair trade chocolate. You can't beat chocolate… Look for a fair trade, organic brand which will ensure that your gift was produced in a more environmentally-friendly manner and that the cacao farmer(s) received a fair price for the beans.
    Organic, fair trade coffee. Because the vast majority of coffee and cacao beans are grown in the developing world, it's even more important to buy a brand that is certified organic and fair trade by TransFair or Equal Exchange.

    King Corn DVDs. From now until Christmas, one dollar of each King Corn DVD purchase will be donated to the Practical Farmers of Iowa’s Next Generation Program, which provides training and mentoring to aspiring young farmers. More than half of U.S. farmland is owned by people of retirement age, while the number of entry-level farmers has fallen by 30 percent in the last decades, making encouragement of young farmers a timely and urgent issue.

    DVDs of the critically-acclaimed King Corn are now available for sale online at

    Conscious cookbooks:

    The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

    Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone by Deborah Madison (my review is at:

    From the Cook's Garden by Ellen Ecker Ogden - delicious recipes, gorgeous woodblock prints

    You can also find even more of these conscious cookbooks at Sustainable Table:

    More intellectual food for thought:

    Kitchen Literacy: How We Lost Knowledge of Where Our Food Comes From & Why We Need to Get It Back by Ann Vileisis

    The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan or any of the other excellent books by Michael Pollan

    GRUB: Ideas for an Urban, Organic Kitchen by Anna Lappe & Bryant Terry

    Hope's Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe & Anna Lappe

    Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver


    If you feel like the food-lover in your life does not need any more "stuff", you can always go this route as there are lots of great gifts that will not clutter anyone's house.

    A gift certificate to a restaurant that uses locally-grown, organic food. If nothing comes to mind, try doing a search for a good restaurant at the Eat Well Guide's web site:

    Cooking classes! You can browse through Sustainable Table's listing of conscious cooking schools here:

    Make a donation to a charity working on organic or sustainable agriculture, land
    reclamation, fair trade, etc. You may want to look for a local nonprofit but here are a few ideas.

    Ecology Center - the awesome organization that runs Berkeley's Farmers markets, biodiesel collective, and our curbside recycling program!

    Organic Consumers Association - a nonprofit that promotes the views and interests of the nation's organic and socially responsible consumers. they campaign on food safety, industrial agriculture, genetic engineering, children's health, corporate accountability, Fair Trade, environmental sustainability and other key topics.

    Oxfam America - a wonderful international relief and development organization that creates lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice. They also do a ton of work to help farmers here in the US and around the world (think Farm Bill and way beyond) and were one of the main pioneers behind the fair trade movement. They offer some great, clever gifts through their "Unwrapped" holiday gift program (at - your donation will buy seeds, trees, sheep, chickens, goats, donkeys, etc., to help families and communities become self-sufficient.

    Heifer International - a large international nonprofit that lets you give the gift of lifestock (goats, cows (hence the name, heifer), honeybees, even a water buffalo) and training in sustainable agriculture to a family in need, so they can feed themselves, earn an income and lift themselves out of poverty. (Oxfam and Heifer have similar missions - I think one of the main differences is that Oxfam also does advocacy work to try to affect the policies that create poverty, hunger and injustice.)

    Oceana - an awesome international oceans conservation group (I used to work there so I can vouch for them) is running a holiday adopt a sea creature campaign right now at: .If you make a donation to adopt a dolphin, sea turtle, penguin, seal, whale, etc., and help protect the animals and their habitats. As a token of thanks, gift recipients will receive their choice of sea creature cookie cutters (like the turtle one at right), an acknowledgment of their adoption, facts on ocean creatures, and a sugar cookie recipe from Warren Brown, FoodNetwork star and owner of CakeLove (one of Washington, DC's favorite bakery/pastry shops.) For a donation of $100 or more, you also get an exclusive Oceana oven mitt.


    Sarah said...

    Thanks, Eve. Perfect timing for me.

    Jessica said...

    Perfect. Thanks so much, Evie.

    Karvetski said...

    Super list, Eve!

    I'd like to put a word in for Deans Beans, an organic, fair trade coffee company from Massachusetts. Dean's story is great, and they go above and beyond the "fair trade" label. Dean's on WAMC Northeast Public Radio (NPR affiliate) and even has a new book out about sustainable business practices. My daughter's daycare center is using them for a fundraiser. You can even make your own custom blend, or personalized label.

    Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Heifer International. Give the gift of lifestock (goats, heifers, honeybees, even a water buffalo) and training in sustainable agriculture to a family in need, so they can feed themselves, earn an income and lift themselves out of poverty.

    Peace out,


    Eve Fox said...

    Thanks for those great suggestions, Kerri!

    Anonymous said...

    Thanks Eve, I would also recommend Caffe Ibis which specializes in sustainable, triple certified coffee at

    Eve Fox said...

    Thanks Kerri and Woody for your suggestions - I've added them to the list!

    Michelle Shefter said...

    This is a GREAT list! Some additional ideas are kitchen tools that run on people power rather than electricity. Items like food mills (great for homemade applesauce and baby food), mandolins (slices veggies with artistic precision), and even traditional hand-cranked egg beaters can easily perform the same tasks for which we'd otherwise be using a food processor or an electric blender!

    Also, although it's my job to plug Defenders' Wildlife Adoptions, I noticed that Oceana's adoptions this year are coming with cookie cutters shaped like ocean critters and pot holders.

    Eve Fox said...

    Thanks Michelle! Matt Littlejohn told me about their adoption campaign earlier today but your comment was the straw that broke the camel's back -I've added it to the list.


    Bonnie said...

    I see great minds think alike! I swear we had tiffins and Klean Kanteens in ours even before I saw yours...which is stunningly comprehensive, btw.

    Eve Fox said...

    I know, I was impressed by the similarities, too (great minds, indeed :))

    Thanks, it took up a lot of my weekend to put it together.

    Lee Chesson said...

    Bamboo is not as green as you think. Of course, as a woodworker, I tend to take the time necessary to study the facts as we know them.

    Some environmental aspects of bamboo production are clearly positive. Wide distribution, rapid growth and renewability, a source of useful products and income for
    millions of traditionally low income people – all of these factors point to the
    environmentally and socially desirable material described in promotional materials for
    bamboo products.

    But is this the whole story? Unfortunately: no.

    A host of environmental problems associated with bamboo harvest and plantation establishment are readily apparent when examining the scientific literature. For instance, a recent assessment of bamboo production in China that involved scientists from the
    Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the Chinese Academy of Forestry, and the University of Madrid (Ruiz-Pérez et al. 2001) included the following

    • “Recently, bamboo expansion has come at the expense of natural forests, shrubs,
    and low-yield mixed plantations . . . It is common practice to cut down existing
    trees and replace them with bamboo.”

    • “As forestlands tend to be in hilly and mountainous areas with steep slopes, clearcutting
    has resulted in an increase in erosion until the bamboo becomes fully
    established . . .”

    • “Natural forests in the vicinity of bamboo plantations have sometimes given way
    to bamboo as a result of deliberate efforts to replace them or because of the
    vigorous natural expansion of bamboo in logged over forests. This process has
    also had a negative impact on biodiversity.”

    • “The intensive management practices employed involve manual or chemical
    weeding and periodic tilling of the land to keep the soil clear of undergrowth.
    These practices increase erosion and result in single-species plantations over large

    • “The intensive use of chemicals (pesticides, weed killers and fertilizers)
    [associated with growing bamboo] also affects the environment . . .”

    Statements of a number of other researchers from the mid-1990s to the present underscore these observations.

    And we must keep in mind that our primary source for bamboo also gives us lead-tainted toys for our children to chew on, and plastic-tainted food for our pets.

    How concerned are they for the health and safety of consumers that use their products... I mean really?

    Eve Fox said...

    That's a good point, Lee and I did not mean to put bamboo forth as the solution to a huge problem as I'm sure it's flawed in many ways as you pointed out. But you could probably say the same of almost all products (for example, the stainless steel take out containers on the list are made in China and regardless of where they're manufactured, extracting minerals from the earth is inherently un-green - but they're still a greener option than using and then throwing away styrofoam take-out containers every time you eat out). I think the context is important.

    personalized retirement gifts said...

    What a perfectly delightful post, Really liked the post so much. keep up the good work.