EcoWatch's Favorite Green Gifts for the Holidays
The holidays are coming and if you're stuck on what to give your eco-conscious friend or relative, we've got you covered. At EcoWatch, we're big fans of homemade presents, products that actually help the planet, and putting our dollars towards a good cause. This year, our staff has rounded up some of the best green gifts we've given and received, as well as the items on our wish list.
Lorraine Chow, freelance reporter
Best Green Gift: A Zero-Waste Notebook
A very thoughtful friend gave me a binder full of ideas to encourage a trash-free lifestyle. The pages were filled with creative ways to use up food scraps, beauty and hygiene DIYs, as well as natural household cleaning tips and recipes.
On My Wish List: Who Gives a Crap's Premium Bamboo Toilet Paper
I wouldn't write a review about toilet paper unless it's actually that good, but I requested my family get me this fancy, three-ply TP for Christmas. It's soft, durable and doesn't contribute to deforestation because it's made of bamboo. The best part? Fifty percent of the company's profits go to help build new toilets in countries where they are needed.
Olivia Rosane, freelance reporter
Best Green Gift: Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers Cookbook
A cousin gave this cookbook to me when I was first learning to cook for myself. It has tasty vegetarian recipes (plus some fish), but also tells you how to cut costs and save food by substituting certain ingredients for what you already have in your fridge. Going meat-free is an important way to reduce your ecological footprint, and this book will get you and your loved ones off to a delicious start!
On My Wish List: Eco Snack Wrap
In my attempts to cut back on plastic waste, one of the hardest problems to solve has been finding a sustainable way to pack lunches and snacks while on-the-go. That's why I'm asking for an Eco Snack Wrap food bag this year. Not only are they attractive and environmentally friendly, they are also ethically made at a factory in India chosen for its environmental and fair labor standards.
Jordan Simmons, social media manager
Best Green Gift: Norwex BacLock® cloths
My perspective on cleaning has shifted from chemical cleaning to zero-waste mechanical cleaning ever since being gifted a set of Norwex BacLock® cloths. The microfiber cloth is woven with an antibacterial agent that removes up to 99 percent of bacteria. The set includes cloths for body, face, windows and kitchen, which eliminates the need for products wrapped in plastic or laden with unnecessary chemicals.
On My Wish List: Bambaw's Bamboo Safety Razor
The zero-waste lifestyle has inspired me to wish for this bamboo and stainless steel safety razor. The company strives to reduce waste while offering affordable, quality and zero-waste solutions.
Chris McDermott, news editor
Best Green Gift: Alchemy Goods Franklin Wallet
In my experience, being eco-conscious often meant paying a premium for lesser quality. Thankfully, Alchemy Goods does everything right. It's a surprising joy to take out this sleek and durable rubber wallet that shows no signs of wear after years. Made in the U.S. from reclaimed bicycle inner tubes, it won't slip from your pocket like vegan leather, nor fray like hemp.
On My Wish List: Voltaic's OffGrid Solar Backpack
This redesigned backpack from Voltaic in Brooklyn features highly efficient solar panels and a Li-polymer battery to quickly recharge a cell phone, camera or tablet. Made from 33 recycled plastic bottles, it's also lightweight, UV resistant and waterproof. The possibilities for taking a long hike (or even getting lost) seem limitless.
Irma Omerhodzic, associate editor
Best Green Gift: To-Go Ware Bamboo Set
Thanks to my mom, I have this reusable to-go utensil set. I try to make food at home whenever possible, but sometimes takeout just makes sense, and I feel guilty about the throwaway containers. My bamboo utensils offset my 'eco-guilt' a smidge. Bonus: The case that comes with the set is made of used plastic bottles.
On My Wish List: YETI, The Rambler® 30 oz.
I have my reusable glass water bottle that I absolutely love, but surprisingly I have yet to own a coffee tumbler that I can reuse. You would think an editor would be well equipped when it comes to anything coffee related. Why am I wishing for this tumbler by YETI specifically? The way I see it is that they produce high-quality products that should last a girl years!
Tara Bracco, managing editor
Best Green Gift: Personalized Reusable Water Bottle
I've been given several reusable water bottles over the years, but the one I use the most was from my friend Joe. It's lightweight with photos of the international nonprofit that we cofounded, The Project Solution. I love it because I no longer need to buy bottled water and the personalized photos make the reusable bottle extra special.
On My Wish List: LuminAID's Packlite Supercharger
LuminAID's solar-powered, inflatable lights were initially created for disaster relief, but after the founders appeared on Shark Tank, they expanded the business. Their lanterns are good for hiking, backpacking or other times you may not have access to electricity. The PackLite Hero 2-in-1 Supercharger is on my wish list because it's compact, good to have during a power outage and it can charge a phone. LuminAid lights are also waterproof, PVC-free and can be recycled.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
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The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.