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Giving Without Taking From the Environment : These presents are a joy for those who want to make sure their gifts are ecologically sound.


Cost is just one thing to consider when shopping for gifts this year. Here are some environmentally preferred holiday gift ideas compiled from this year's Earthwatch columns and also a recent eco-shopping trip around the county.


For parents who have been harassed into recycling by their kids, here's a way to return the sentiment: Eberhard Faber's American EcoWriter is a new pencil product that requires that no trees be cut down--in the rain forest or anywhere.

Sold in packs of eight or a dozen, they look--and write--just like the manufacturer's regular product, but they're actually made from recycled newsprint and cardboard boxes. Available at Target, Lucky, K mart and stationery stores for $2 to $3 a pack.


Here's a choice of do-it-yourself kits on a paper making. Allison Bailey, a salesperson at Adventure For Kids, the Ventura bookshop where these items are on sale, said, "It's an 'Oh-I-can-do-this' positive reinforcement thing to keep the kids busy during the holidays."

"Vicky Cobb's Paper Making Book and Kit" at $16.95 will get the whole family into papermaking--from scrap, just like environmentally conscious real papermakers do. Or "Paper Book And Paper Maker" at $12.95, devised by author Shar Levine, will get the younger folks brewing and drying slurry concocted from junk mail.

For the more outdoorsy type of eco-family, here are two ideas. First, a video called "Snorkeling for Kids," produced by the National Assn. of Underwater Instructors--a Southern California-based group of scuba professionals dedicated to protecting the quality of the underwater environment. Ed Begley, Jr. hosts. It's $19.95. To order, call (800) 360-2121.

Then, there's a new magazine worthy of a gift subscription, "EcoTraveler." Editors Perry Garfinkel and Lisa Tabb say it's dedicated to the idea that the traveler plays a significant role in the delicate balance between man and nature. Call (800) 285-5951 for a $19.95 annual subscription.

A gift idea for a friend you know to be equally at home in the realms of nature and business, "The Ecology of Commerce" is Paul Hawkens' gracefully written yet hardheaded approach to reconciling these two worlds. I agree with a recent reviewer who called it "one of the first important books of the 21st Century." It's $23 at local bookstores or call (800) 242-7737.


My favorite computer game, SimCity, has been updated. The new version is called SimCity 2000--incorporating four years of suggestions from its avid followers. As before, it lets players create and run their own cities on the electronic screen. But among the new features is a competition with neighboring cities based on quality-of-life and environment, which I think is what will be on every business person's mind in the 21st Century. It's $69.95 at Egghead stores, or Software Etc. stores, or call (800) 33-MAXIS

The folks at Patagonia Inc., a local company that has shown how the environment can be a positive factor in business, have just released a high fashion product with an astonishingly down to earth character. Their famous Syhchilla sweaters are now being made from reclaimed soda pop bottles that have been melted down and spun into new fibers. Sounds daunting, but feels terrific. They are $85 at The Great Pacific Iron Works in Ventura. Or, if you are lucky and persistent, for 30% off at Real Cheap Sports, Patagonia's "seconds" store in Ventura. But not too many of them get there, due to quality control in the first manufacturing go-round.

The same fiber manufacturer, Wellman Inc., makes two products in Carson, Calif., that have been turned into futons by a company called Rising Star up in Oregon. I had to smile at the trade name, "Cloverfill," given the mattress core fiber made from recycled green plastic soda bottles. The other stuffing, made from mixed plastic, is called, understandably, "Wellspring."

The result is a comfortable alternative to the leaden and unwieldy fillings of ordinary futons. The shipping cost of $10 is an indication of how light the futons are. These are mail-order products that sell for about $200. Call (800) 828-6711.

Happy holidays.

Richard Kahlenberg, who writes the weekly Earthwatch column, has been reporting on the environment since Earth Day I. Nowadays, he recycles everything. You can write to him at 5200 Valentine Road, Suite 140, Ventura, 93003, or send faxes to 658-5576.

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