Give gifts that will really help reduce your friends and family’s carbon footprint this holiday season.


Reusable water bottles, eco-shopping bags, and ethically sourced nik-naks are all good environmentally friendly holiday gift options, but what if you’re looking for a present that does more?  What do you get for the people in your life who really want to take extra steps to reduce their carbon footprint, but aren’t sure how?  


Look no further.


Every item on this alternative eco-gift guide is designed to have a REAL impact to reduce carbon pollution, through things like transportation options, home energy efficiency, and renewable power.  These gifts won’t cost the earth, but they can help protect it from climate change!


1.   An Annual Bike Share Membership


Transportation accounts for a huge proportion of Canada’s carbon pollution, as high as 35 per cent in Ontario and 25 per cent across the country. One of the most important changes we could all make is to drive less and walk, cycle or take public transit more.


If you know someone who lives in Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, or Toronto consider getting them an annual membership to a bike share program! This is a great low-commitment way for people to get into cycling around town without having to invest in a bike of their own, and at less than $100 (or less for shorter term plans) can be an affordable gift that keeps on giving.  


Look online for other bike share programs near you!


Over the handlebars of a mobi bike share bike in vancouver, BC
The Mobi bike share program in Vancouver, BC, is a fun and healthy way to see the sights


2.   Book an Electric Vehicle test drive


Electric vehicles (EVs) produce up to 90% less emissions than gas cars, so if reducing their driving altogether isn’t an option for the people in your life, an electric car just might be a good alternative.  We’re not suggesting you buy them a new car, but if they’re considering their options for a new vehicle, why not get the ball rolling with an EV test drive?


If they happen to be based in the Greater Toronto Area, the charity Plug n’ Drive has the world’s first EV Discovery Centre , where you can learn all about electric cars and test drive a range of different vehicles. Wherever you live though you could also contact your local car dealerships to see what test drive options they have on offer.


Better yet, this gift of a cool experience comes at the grand old price of zero dollars!


small electric cars line up for test drives
Flickr user Atomic Taco took this photo of new Car 2 Go members test driving electric cars


3.   A Smart Thermostat


Home energy use is another major contributor to carbon emissions. If you find yourself constantly adjusting your thermostat, it’s probably costing you money too.  This gift is ideal for homeowners, but can work for renters too if they can get permission from the landlord.


Smart thermostats are clever devices that monitor and regulate the temperature in your home for you, saving money and energy in the process.  Some provinces are even running incentive programs including free or discounted thermostats and fittings by a registered engineer – all you have to do is sign up and they’ll be in touch to arrange the appointment at a time that suits you.  Check out this website for info on programs in Ontario and Alberta.


You can also just buy them a Smart Thermostat yourself – there are lots available ranging from less than $100 to over $300 with all the bells and whistles.


A Nest smart thermostat reading 70 degrees
Nest, Ecobee and Honeywell are all major suppliers of smart thermostats in Canada


4.   Plan a home energy audit


Another way to reduce a home’s carbon footprint starts with a a home energy audit.  Audits are carried out by qualified home engineers, and are a great way to find out where you can save money and reduce the amount of energy you need to heat and cool your home.  They’ll be able to tell you about incentives and rebates available for work like draft exclusion, insulation, window caulking and a whole lot more.


Plan an audit for your partner, parent, or grandparent, and you could literally be giving the gift of warmth this holiday season!


5.   Portable solar panels or solar chargers for phones or other devices


Portable solar panels. That’s right.  Great for hikers, campers, festival goers, and anyone who’s ever been caught out without a charger, or who wants to reduce their energy use.  On a nice day, a solar charger can juice up your phone in 30 minutes. This is a cool gadget great for younger audiences who are hooked to their devices.


The larger portable panels can generate much more power and even offset your grid-usage, extra handy for people who like to get out in their RV or to the cottage!


a phone connected to a portable solar charging array
Easily portable solar chargers can help you stay connected while on the go


6.   Carbon offsetting

Carbon offsets is a way to do something about the pollution created by the flight  you take to enjoy a well deserved holiday. A carbon offset reduces the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as your plane trip produces. You buy the offset through a company online and the money goes towards projects to reduce carbon pollution, usually renewable energy like wind farms or solar projects, or energy efficiency, forestry or destruction of industrial pollution.


Not all offsets are made equal, however, so it’s a good idea to do your research and make sure you support the project that you’re investing in. Some Canadian projects include: Less Emissions, Carbon Zero, or OffSetters.


a woman in a hard hat plants a new tree
Carbon offset money goes towards projects like forestation to create new carbon sinks


7.   Shares in a renewable energy cooperative or solar community


No room on the roof for solar panels? No problem! Love wind power? Great!


If you’re looking to make a major investment in your child’s future but aren’t quite ready to commit to solar panels of their very own this could be a fantastic option.  Shares in a local solar farm or wind co-op, such as Solar Share (Ontario only), the Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-op or Co-Power – who are offering a special end-of year investment opportunity – are more than just a stocking-filler. This gift has the triple-whammy of supporting renewables, benefiting local industry, and paying out dividends, not to mention that renewable energy is cool and futuristic!


wind turbine in a field
David Dodge from Green Energy Futures capture this photo of a wind turbine on Flickr




We hope you’ve found some food for thought here – these really are the gifts that keep on giving, to your loved ones, to future generations, and to the health of the planet.  


Let us know if you think of any more bright ideas! If you’re interested in more ways to reduce your carbon footprint sign up to hear more at