Green Holiday Gift Ideas For Less

Re-gifting is just a different word for recycling.

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A used paperback copy of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, a New York Times bestselling novel written by Lisa See, tops the list of my favorite gifts. At holiday re-gifting party, a friend presented the paperback to me. She had the read novel, set in China during the 19th century, and accurately determined the book would make an ideal present for me and gave me her copy. (See also Creative Ways to Donate Your Used Stuff)

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Regifting is just a trendy term for recycling. And recycling is just one way to create a greener holiday gift list. Utility companies, consumer groups and other eco-friendly organizations have creative ideas for finding green gifts for the holiday.

Energy-efficient gadgets: Select appliances that will generate year-round energy savings for the folks on your gift list. Look for the Energy Star logo on electrical appliances. The Energy Star designation is a part of a federal program run by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to identify energy-efficient appliances. The government estimates that the program has helped consumers in the U.S. reduce utility bills by almost $17 billion and “avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 30 million cars,” in 2009.

Smart computers: Laptops are portable and cheaper to operate, according to Florida Power & Light, a regional utility company. Laptops use 50 percent less energy than desktop models, FPL reports. Shop around for laptops and notebooks with dependable, long-lasting batteries, which require less time plugged into your home outlets.

Power strips: Gift wrap a power strip. Home appliances consume the most energy –about 75 percent of their electrical charge—when placed on “standby” or even in the “off” mode. That’s because many appliances have internal computers, lights and timers that consume power even when the device is not in use. “Plug in to extra savings by including a power strip with your electronic gifts. Cutting power to the strip ensures all plugged-in appliances don't draw energy while they're not in use,” according to the folks at FPL.

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Health and safety: The Environmental Working Group staff has assembled a list of safe gifts for the holiday. Their top stocking stuffers includes cell phone headsets, which reduce possible radiation exposure from cell phones. Other gift suggestions include glass, stainless steel or cast iron cookware, which are safer for food preparation. The organization also recommends eco-friendly cookbooks such as The Conscious Kitchen and The Earthbound Cook: 250 Recipes for Delicious Food and a Healthy Planet.

Alternative power sources: Traditional battery charges can increase monthly electrical bills. To help save money and the environment, give solar-powered battery charges as a holiday bonus. There are solar-powered and Energy Star-rated battery charges for power tools, cell phones and MP3 players, according to FPL.

Sharon Harvey-Rosenberg is a special financial news contributor for Wise Bread. She is the author of "Frugal Duchess: How to Live Well and Save Money” and a contributing author to ”10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget.”