Green Giving: How To Give Experiences That Help the Planet

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green-givingThis week Everyday Earthiness shows you how to give amazing eco-friendly experience gifts that help the planet. We’ve been sending out daily tips, ideas and resources to help everyday people give a little greener for the holidays. Here’s a rundown of the terrific green gifts we’ve recommended this week — along with some bonus information — just for you.

For the first week of Christmas Everyday Earthiness gave to you:

  1. Nature memberships
  2. Great eco-adventures and outdoor experiences
  3. Ecotourism ideas

1. Nature memberships

For a small membership fee give your loved ones an annual membership card to a state park, regional trail system, wildlife refuge or nature preserve. Or give memberships to zoos and aquariums that are devoted to conservation and the protection of wildlife, ecosystems, water and land. Here are some of our favorite nature memberships gift ideas:

  • National Park Service “America The Beautiful” Annual Pass – This amazing pass provides one year of access into all federal recreation areas including all national parks, monuments and areas administered by the National Parks Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Discounted passes area available to military, seniors and residents with disabilities. Tack on a National Park Service Passport for adults or kids who like track their NPS visits, view maps and collect entry stamps. Other ways to support NPS are shopping at their incredible online gift store or simply donating to the NPS.
  • Wildlife Conservation Society – Founded in 1895, this was one of the first conservation groups in the U.S. Today they have five parks dedicated to wildlife conservation: Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo and the New York Aquarium. Give the gift of a premium or basic membership for a family or couple to access any of these great parks.
  • Other great conservation-oriented zoos include the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington D.C., the Brookfield Zoo just outside of Chicago, the Cincinnati Zoo, the Denver Zoo, the Philadelphia Zoo, the St. Louis Zoo and the San Diego Zoo. Other great preservation-minded aquariums include Monterey Bay Aquarium, Georgia Aquarium, Shedd Aquarium, National Aquarium and Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. To see if there is a conservation-oriented zoo or aquarium in you area, check out the non-profit watchdog Association for Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) list of 230 and counting accredited zoos and aquariums.
  • Grand Canyon Trust – This group is devoted to protecting the Grand Canyon, Colorado River and Colorado Plateau. Get a gift membership for someone special and they will receive the beautiful Colorado Plateau Advocate Magazine, emails about Grand Canyon Issues, volunteer opportunities and invitations to member trips. Pair a GCT membership with a terrific travel guide, like Grand Canyon: The Complete Guide by James Kaiser.
  • Access Fund – The Access Fund is the national advocacy organization that keeps U.S. climbing areas open and conserves the climbing environment. Gift a friend a one year membership to conserve nature in their name and they’ll also receive a cool AF t-shirt.
  • Appalachian Trail Conservancy – Give your favorite hiker a membership to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the organization that preserves and maintains the 2,190 miles of the Appalachian trail. Pair an ATC gift membership with a great plastic-free reusable water bottle, such as this 40oz widemouth bottle from Klean Kanteen.
  • Give memberships to the Coral Reef Alliance, works to protect valuable and threatened coral reef ecosystems around the world through holistic conservation programs, or to the Ocean Conservancy to help ocean lovers better appreciate upcoming vacations or everyday visits to the ocean.

2. Great eco-adventures and outdoor experiences

Nature is proven to make us happy, and the more time we spend in nature the better. From a quick day hike to camping, rafting and biking trips around the world to vacations in national parks, jungles, forests, beaches or mountains, time spent enjoying nature is time nurturing our brains, bodies and emotional well-being (for more on that see my post “Nature Makes Us Happy (And 12 Other Scientifically Proven Benefits of Nature On Our Health And Wellbeing)”. Gifting to your family, friends or loved ones the chance to get outside can be great not only for them but also for the wilderness they visit. Here are a few ideas:

  • Rafting – Many of America’s rivers are under threat from toxic chemicals, unsustainable business practices and water depletion. The good news is that many rafting companies support the important conservation and protection work of environmental groups fighting to keep rivers clean and responsibly maintained. Give your family or friends the gift of a rafting trip with a responsible, philanthropic outfitter O.A.R.S., such as this amazing 4-day adventure through Cataract Canyon on the Colorado River.
  • Camping – Entry fees for national, state and regional parks, permits for backcountry trips, fishing licenses, campsite fees, trail fees and so on — some of these funds are used to protect and conserve the natural world you love to visit. Giving the gift of a camping trip can range from very inexpensive. For example, camping in BLM-run Big Bend Campground just outside of ever-popular Moab, UT, will set you back only $15/night for up to 8 people. One night in a luxury safari tent in Meno a Kwena Tent Camp in Botswana will set you back $1036/night for 2 people. Both experiences will contribute to conservation efforts.
  • Other outdoor experiences – Giving someone special time outdoors can help spread the love for nature, increase environmental awareness and inspire environmental activism. Give the gift of a hike, a family picnic, an outdoor concert, entry into a 5k run, commitment to a neighborhood trash pickup, a ski weekend, a bike ride, a walk on the beach or a paraglide dive off a mountain. Commit to joining a bird watching, cross country skiing or nature walk group. Plan a hiking or biking trip with Climate Ride for a great outdoor experience that also raises money for climate action. It doesn’t matter what you do, just as long as you do it outside.

3. Ecotourism ideas

Ecotourism is much more than just responsible tourism, it is defined as responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people. True ecotourism has a net positive benefit on the environment and the community. So go ahead, book an ecotourism trip as a gift for the holidays.

  • Ecotourism Vacations – Ecotourism is more than just responsible tourism, it is responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people. For example, check out the Lapa Rios eco-lodge on the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica, a National Geographic Unique Lodge that has won worldwide awards for social and environmental excellence. Or give your family a vacation at Yellowstone National Park, such as this cool Trails Through Yellowstone hiking/stay package. For other top ecotourism destinations, check out this list of top 2015 picks from Green Global Travel. For a list of great ecotourism companies, check out these outfitter recommendations from Ecologist, this directory at EcoTourDirectory.com or these recommendations from Transitions Abroad. Beware — many travel companies call their services ecotourism when they are not. Be sure to vet ecotourism claims (The International Ecotourism Society is a good place to start, or follow these tips from Wanderful).
  • Volunteer Vacations – You can do more than contribute funding to conservation efforts on your next ecotourism vacation — at SeeTheWild.org you can also volunteer for cool conservation and preservation efforts around the world, from helping care for neglected and abused animals at a rescue shelter in Argentina to joining a marine conservation expedition in Fiji and Thailand. Or check out EarthWatch.org to join scientific expeditions to provide hands-on help investigating critical environmental issues while experiencing the cultural and natural wonders of the world.
  • Sustainable/Responsible Tourism – While they don’t necessarily have a positive environmental impact, many travel companies have dedicated themselves to providing sustainable and responsible trips that are carbon neutral, don’t contribute to wilderness damage and teach their patrons how to responsibly treat the environment. Some of our favorites are REI Adventures, O.A.R.S.National Geographic Expeditions and Mountain Travel Sobek, which not only plan sustainable trips and teach environmental awareness to their patrons, but also give back to environmental organizations.

What can you do today?

Make a commitment to give greener this holiday season with green gifts and donations that benefit, not hurt, the environment. For recommendations on environmental organizations to support, please check out our Season of Giving posts, starting with last week’s “34 Ways to Support Climate Action”. Follow Everyday Earthiness every day until Christmas for more Green Giving Tips. Spread the word to others about how you are giving greener this year.

Featured resource of the day: Green Giving involves not only the gift you give but also the way you  present a gift. Check out Everyday Earthiness’ “How To Green Up Your Gift Giving” for tips on greener gift wrapping, ribbons and cards, along with a few more great green gift ideas.

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