Friday, April 30, 2010

Eco Gifts for Teachers & Moms

It's that time of year when we're looking for the perfect gifts for teachers and mothers. Next week is Teacher Appreciation Week at our school followed of course by Mother's Day. So I thought I'd share some gift ideas that are good for them and the planet.

1. Find out the recipient's favorites or guidance for what is expected. My friends Amy and Jen said that specific suggestions were sent home for teacher gifts: Monday is a card and sweets, Wednesday a book for the classroom, and Friday something for special areas. Guidance is good. Since Amy knows her teacher's favorite sweet is peanut butter cups, that's an easy one. She also has a great picture of the teacher that she'll put on a homemade card--personalized and frugal.

2. Know some basic information about them. I'm terrible with this and didn't even know Devin's teacher's last name until a few weeks ago. She's always been Ms. Nancy! I stress the importance of this because of monograms; more further down. I also haven't noticed if either teacher is a coffee drinker or whether they like chocolate or sweets. If you know their preferences, you're more likely to give them something they really like. For an avid coffee drinker, you could get a reusable mug and a bag of fair trade coffee.

3. Consider gifts that either can be made from materials you already have (homemade cards or bookmarks), have had a previous life (a gently used book), or that will be reused again and again (water bottles, shopping bags, or coffee mugs).

4. Pick one location with a variety of stores to find a deal. The last tip is where I decided to turn my shopping sleuthing this week. In one stop I checked out Home Goods, T.J. Maxx, and Ross. Pier 1 Imports is one strip mall over if you need other ideas. Ross had several reusable shopping bags for $3-$4; cute designs but poor quality. For just $6 you can get a good quality canvas bag. T.J. Maxx had nice bags for $13 and up and their store bag for $.99. I also liked their designs and size but you get what you pay for in quality. They had a variety of water bottles and coffee cups for $5-$8. Home Goods had some nice thermal lunch bags for $13 and a variety of water bottles in the $6 range.

5. Make it personal. A few weeks ago at our consignment sale, a shopper had a very colorful bag that was monogrammed. She said she was a teacher and it was her favorite gift. You can find a variety of reusable shopping bags from just about any store. If you scored some for free a few weeks ago, you might consider having them monogrammed. My friend Elizabeth is a SAHM with a monogramming business on the side. She charges $6 for 1 or $5 each for 3 to stitch an initial or name on bags. She says canvas bags are much easier than plastic.

6. You can't go wrong with gift cards and they too can be personal. For Christmas I gave both teachers a gift card to Applebee's and a bag of chocolates. On the note I wrote, "Enjoy dinner and dessert on us. Every mom deserves a night she doesn't have to cook and a dessert she doesn't have to share." For a more sustainable angle, I was thinking of giving each teacher a gift card to Earthfare along with the free reusable bag from their store I just got.

7. Think local and fresh. My other gift that's gone over well in years past has been strawberry freezer jam with homemade scones. I always take the kids strawberry picking at Rutherford's Farms in Maryville. Freezer jam requires less fruit and sugar than traditional jam. When you're picking fruit with kids, that's a major plus. In the gifts, I've also included pictures of the kids picking strawberries with a card. I'll post more about that when I go the next couple of weeks.

8. My Pick: Since I haven't made it strawberry picking yet and I wasn't planning a trip to Earthfare between now and next week, I decided to pick up some reusable water bottles at Home Goods. They are selling monogrammed, BPA-free, stainless steel water bottles with sport caps for just $6. They look nice, they have the personal touch, and they're an environmentally conscious choice. And don't forget these make great choices for the grandparents too.

Please share your ideas below.

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