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Holiday Gift Guide

Got some relatives who are impossible to buy for around the holidays? Or others who need a unique gift to challenge the same old necktie or earrings they get every year?

Let the Sierra Club guide you.

Mom, the MacGuyver of crafts
Your mom could make a sweater out of duct tape, old magazines, thumbtacks, and a ponytail holder (and it'd look good). She also decorates the house within an inch of its life, and that looks good, too. So why not give the gift of time and spend an afternoon making an amazing Christmas decoration with mom?

Sierra magazine has a guide to making a reindeer decoration out of an old bicycle. And while this holiday decor will most likely be the most unique on the block, we're guessing your mom will enjoy the gift of spending time with you even more.

On the other hand, if you'd rather wrap yourself and hide under a tree than spend time with the craftiest of moms, then gift certificates to local vegetarian restaurants, green spas, or nearby eco-hotels make thoughtful, low-impact presents.

Sis, the greenest of the green
Your sister is so green that the Incredible Hulk and Ed Begley, Jr., are jealous. She's taught you about environmental issues you never even knew existed ---- and she's a great inspiration. So how about giving her something that shows you've got some eco-cred yourself, while also contributing to her green life?

If she’s green and a foodie, why not combine those two loves with a mushroom garden? Consider a mushroom garden from a grassroots company called Back to the Roots. The grow-your-own kit comes with "soil" made of recycled coffee grounds (BTTR is on track to divert 1 million pounds of caffeinated refuse from landfills this year), and the packaging box doubles as a vase. Within ten days of opening it, you can harvest up to a pound and a half of recipe-ready pearl oyster mushrooms. Or treat her to the sweet life with organic, artisanal honey from Savannah Bee Company, which Slow Food USA says helps preserve diverse flavors, bee colonies, and old-fashioned beekeeping practices.

Or, finally, another gift idea: Haven't you always wanted your sister to yell out, "YOU GAVE ME WORMS!!" and not have it involve a veterinarian? Green thumbs know that the best dirt is just worm poop. And the fresher the poop, the richer and loamier the earth. So enliven a gardener's world with a 1,000-count box of live red wiggler composting worms from Uncle Jim's Worm Farm. The squirmy wonders play as nicely in raised beds as they do in a moist compost bin. Just make sure they're fed a steady diet of kitchen scraps.

Dad, Mr. Gadget
You dad has just about every new tech item ever created. If he's checking his email on his tablet, he's probably doing it while talking on his cell phone and looking up specs on his laptop for his latest motherboard-soldering project. Honestly, at this point you're wondering if he's so into tech stuff that he might just be a cyborg.

Well here's one tech product he's probably never done - making an algae-powered lamp. The Latro algae-powered lamp, invented by Dutch designer Mike Thompson, was inspired by the discovery that electrodes can be inserted into algae's chloroplasts to make electricity. For the scientifically inclined, and those up for a messy attempt at constructing the lava lamp's eco-spawn, Thompson's site provides somewhat opaque instructions, which involve exhaling into a tube. Light up his life and give him another gadget to show off around the holidays.

Or he can impress his friends with the greenest external hard drive we've seen, made by Hitachi. The 500-gigabyte [re]drive has a shell of bamboo and recyclable aluminum, comes in minimal packaging, and can use 90 percent less energy than a typical external drive. It's also fast and PC- and Mac-compatible.

Bro, environ-what?
Your brother, bless his heart (that's how you know we're about to say something not-as-complimentary), thinks a recycling bin is a great container for his tools. He thinks climate change is only what happens when he flies to the Bahamas from his home in Minnesota. The guy just doesn't know environmental issues.

And that’s ok, because you can teach him while keeping him interested. Give him green experiences to expand his horizons, such as a certificate to an organic restaurant or a membership in a cycling club or car-share program (such as Or who couldn't use a wind/solar powered cell phone charger?

Joe, your super conservative uncle
Uncle Joe is a great guy, you just spend a lot of time agreeing to disagree with him on numerous political and environmental issues. Instead of choosing to ram your head through the dining room drywall out of frustration, why not give him a great gift to show you care, and to get his wheels turning?

Try combining an inspiring book or DVD, a compact fluorescent bulb, and some organic treats in an attractive, reusable container ( sells a prepackaged version). If all else fails, there's always energy star power tools.

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