Here's my first list of Simple (and Unusual) Things You Can Give to Help Save the Earth.
A gift certificate to a local nursery ($10 to $25). The ultimate "green" gift. If you'd rather give something more impressive, make it a houseplant, which is not only pretty but practical -- houseplants clean up indoor pollution. Among the most effective pollution fighters: philodendrons, spider plants.
Recycled writing paper ($6 to $19). There's no "cycle" in "recycle" unless we buy recycled materials, too. Look for recycled stationery at a local store, or call the Earth Care Paper Co. at (608) 277-2900. It has everything from 12-piece stationery sets to reams of blank 100 percent recycled paper.
A cotton shower curtain (about $30). Tired of smelly, moldy plastic shower curtains? So are your friends. Give them this attractive, natural alternative. Check bath stores, or order from NOPE (Non-Polluting Enterprises) at (800) 782-NOPE.
Rechargeable batteries and charger ($18 and up). Convenient, saves money and keeps hazardous waste out of the environment; disposable alkaline batteries contain toxic mercury. Most hardware stores stock at least one brand.
A permanent coffee filter ($20). Do your friends still use paper coffee filters? A permanent one will cut down on waste, and your friends will never have to worry about running out of filters again. I can recommend a brand called Swiss Gold, but shop around.
A hat from the San Francisco Hat Co. ($24.95). Help save rain forest trees by supporting sustainable resources. Give a fedora-style straw hat handwoven out of native palm by the Quiche Indians in Guatemala. Order from Gardener's Supply at (800) 457-4031.
Cloth napkins ($4 and up apiece). An elegant way to break the "disposable dependency."
A subscription to P-3, the Earth-Based Magazine for Kids ($18). The best children's environmental magazine anywhere, and a gift kids will enjoy all year. Fun facts, games, cartoons and lots more teach good eco-habits. To order, call (802) 326-4669 or write to P.O. Box 52, Montgomery, Vt. 05470. Tell them it's a gift, and they'll send a card.
An audiocassette tape of eco-music for kids. Recommended: "All In This Together" (ages 4 to 10) from Sisters' Choice Records, and "Dirt Made My Lunch" from the Banana Slug String Band (ages 4 to 8); $9.98 each, available from Music for Little People, (800) 346-4445.