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With the holiday season upon us, you might be thinking about more eco-friendly gifts to give this year.  You can head to the mall or Walmart and certainly find any number of possibilities, or you could make the shopping trip a unique experience that rewards you, the giver, as much as the recipient.

It’s always a good idea to support local businesses, because that helps our local economy, keeping the profits here too.  The Third Degree Glass Factory (ThirdDegreeGlassFactory.com) offers one-of-a-kind glass pieces that are made by local artisans, including beautiful ornaments, jewelry, and other home accessories.  You can observe glass blowers as they create the glassworks, and sign up for classes to learn how to work with glass.  That might make a great gift for the artist in your life!

The Garden Gate Shop (GardenGateShop.com), located at the Missouri Botanical Garden, is a great place for green gifts.  Another shopping treat for the giver, you can combine a walk through the garden with the functional task of gift-buying.  You’ll find a wide variety of fine home furnishings, plants, books and garden accessories that is sure to be a hit with the green goddess or gardener in your life.

Home Eco (Home-Eco.com), located in the South Hampton area of town, is modeled after the traditional general store.  While this is a great resource for the things you “need” – like gardening supplies, building materials and consumables for the kitchen and bath, you’ll find a wide variety of products that are either practical, charming or both.

It seems like we all know someone who has everything or is not really a “stuff” kind of person.  Cloud 9 Living (Cloud9Living.com) offers experiential gifts that are sure to please your more adventurous friends and family members.  From hot-air balloon rides to race-car driving (or riding), there is a memorable event that you can gift that special person in your life.  There are locally available adventures as well as more exotic escapades that can take you across the country or around the world, like hiking the Pacific Coast, horseback riding through a canyon, kayaking in sea caves or hang-gliding above the treetops.  Gift certificates are available for any budget, and are transferrable, exchangeable and refundable.

Do you know someone who loves to cook?  Cornucopia (Kitchencopia.com) in Kirkwood offers a wide variety of kitchen and home accessories where you can find the perfect gift for the culinary king or queen in your life.  There are more than 15,000 items to choose from in the two-story shop just north of the train station.  You’ll find an assortment of specialty coffees and teas, plus an interesting selection of colorful and creative tea sets.

Finally, Plowsharing Crafts (Plowsharing.org) is a not-for-profit organization with locations in Kirkwood and The Loop in University City.  Plowsharing is a Fair Trade organization that brings products from third world countries to help artisans earn a fair wage for their work.  While the store managers are paid, the shops are staffed by volunteers to help keep costs down.  Both shops carry gift items, housewares, personal accessories, musical instruments  and a number of other specialty items that will not only delight the receiver, but help provide a decent living for someone living a less affluent lifestyle.  Most of the items are made with sustainable and recycled materials, so they help make the planet a healthier and happier place.

Finally, you might consider simply offering a service of your own.  Create an elaborate gift certificate offering anything from a shoe-shine to an elaborate candlelight dinner prepared with love.  After all, isn’t that what gift-giving is really all about?

This was published in the Going Green section of the December 2010 issue of  Spirit Seeker magazine.