Green Gift Ideas for Father's Day

You can honor your father with gifts that aren’t bad for Mother Earth.

June 4, 2012

This Sunday is Father’s Day. If you’re looking to do something special this year, I suggest taking time to think about what Dad enjoys, so you can pick something he will actually use and enjoy. Don’t insult the planet by giving him some strange electronic gizmo that will just collect dust until it goes to the rummage sale or charity store—or worse, the trash. My father has been gone many years now (he was 50 when he and my mom adopted me as a newborn), but a fond memory I have of him is the literally thousands of hours he spent reading to me, sitting in his big, ugly brown armchair in the living room, usually with at least one cat making it difficult to turn the pages in his lap, and often quite proficiently knitting afghan squares at the same time. So when I think of Father’s Day gifts, the first thing that comes to my mind is going beyond the usual Father’s Day card and composing a letter instead. Include a special memory or two you have about special times with him, especially something he may not know you consider special. That’s something he just may tuck away to enjoy again later, when he’s sitting in his own ugly armchair, or the equivalent thereof.

Here are some gift ideas that are light on the planet, light on your wallet, or both:


If your father’s hard to shop for, skip the malls and gift shops and make it a day of local pleasures. Take him out for a special meal at a local restaurant (look for one that uses local ingredients), or plan a picnic at an event he will enjoy (check your local paper and you can probably come up with a selection of free or inexpensive concerts, sporting events, and other activities he can choose from). Shop for the freshest local produce and meats at a farmer’s market, add a bottle of local wine, and you have an event Dad will remember long after the ants have cleaned up the crumbs. If he’s not that into local, organic food, this is your chance to show him the light.

If he could use a little luxury in his life, how about a special bathrobe for everyday relaxing (with no sissy satin)? While it may sound a bit strange, consider a robe made from bamboo! Bamboo is a very ecofriendly crop: It has few pests or diseases, so it is easy to grow organically; it doesn’t need extra water, it thrives on steep slopes where other crops would cause erosion, and it regrows what has been harvested in a year or two. The resulting fiber is soft and comfortable, lightweight and absorbent, and even naturally antimicrobial. If your Dad’s not much of a lounger, or he’s strictly a keep-it-simple guy, you can get him organic bamboo briefs or boxers. Ecofriendly, high-performance, and silky-smooth—what more could any man want?
If Dad likes to cook (or could use some help or ideas), a cookbook and/or some healthy cooking classes may be appreciated, especially if you can go together. If he likes to run the grill, how about a Barbecue Tool Belt with quick-draw holsters, or a wireless meat thermometer so his grilled goodies will be safe for everyone to eat. Include some locally raised, grass-fed-cattle steaks so he can try everything out.

If he likes his beverages, he can save some money and avoid the greenhouse gases involved in producing and shipping store-bought brands by making his own. So how about a starter home-brewing kit, with everything he’ll need to make and bottle a batch of Organic 7 Bridges Red Ale? What’s a more fun way for him to be ecofriendly than by brewing his own beer? And it is guaranteed to taste better than the homebrew my Pop produced in the basement in an open antique crock, using canned blue-ribbon malt and table sugar. I didn’t have much of an opinion of beer back then, though I remember the production and bottling routine vividly. But friends who were of drinking age at the time still say it was truly vile stuff.

If your Dad doesn’t do alcohol, a root beer kit is fun, too, and it makes a perfect project to do with kids or grandkids. Just be sure to age the bottles in a cool place: My kids have a fond memory of hearing bottles explode in our hot pantry, and I have less-fond memories of cleaning up the truly spectacular results. Or get him a soda-making kit from my favorite soda maker, Sodastream. He’ll be able to enjoy fresh seltzer or soda without all those bottles to carry home and get rid of. Whatever you chose to do on Father’s Day, here’s hoping your Dad gets to do just exactly what he wants…even if that is nothing at all!