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For Those Who Know Too Much: The Eco-Friendly Gift Guide

Photo: 350.org

Your aunt, the environmental lawyer who sued British Petroleum. Your Fulbright scholar cousin who recently returned from India, where he's developed a highly efficient solar cookstove. Your old roommate, the vegan who went undercover to expose cruelty on a chicken farm.

What, in the world, should you get them for holiday gifts?

OK, you might not have that many incredibly committed, informed, passionate people on your list—and even if you do, they're not going to judge you that much for buying them some lame, plastic stocking stuffer with a huge carbon footprint. Then again....

So if you're still on the hunt for a gift or two, consider these options for your eco-est friends and family.

Embrocation Cycling has released a high-end cycling kit as a fundraiser for carbon-cutting advocacy group 350.org. The jersey and shorts are made by Capo, a bike clothing manufacturer known for durability, says Andrew Gardner, who recruits cyclists and other athletes into the 350.org fold. The $288 kit is being sold through the Embrocation website and the proceeds go to support 350.org programs.

If you're on the East Coast and suffered a prolonged power outage from Superstorm Sandy, you won't need to be convinced of the utility of the Fenix International ReadySet, a mini power plant. Rather than relying on liquid fuel, the ReadySet uses solar or kinetic (bicycle generator) power inputs. The $275 USA kit (it's also sold in Africa, the market for which it was initially developed) includes a 15-watt solar panel, a USB charge adapter for electronics, and a three-watt LED light.

Renewable materials? Check. Made in the United States? Check. Pretty? Yep. Bespoke? Uh-huh. If you've got an active nature lover on your list—whose noggin you're willing to lay down some serious scratch to protect—check out Dan Coyle's wooden helmets, which Berne Broudy reviewed here on the Gear Shed. Cost depends on wood choice and design, but they start at $375.

Let them choose. Sit down on the couch and ask them to peruse Indiegogo, a crowdfunding site often used by non-profits, and then donate to their favorite campaigns on their behalf.

"Heritage gear" is a major trend in the outdoor apparel world right now. Woolrich and The North Face are among the brands that are offering new gear with old aesthetics. But the best piece of gear, from a sustainability point of view, is the one that's not made new. Last fall, Patagonia made a splash with its Don't Buy This Jacket ad campaign. It encourages consumers to see if they might extend the lifecycle of their existing goods before turning to the trash by sending them to its eBay Common Threads page. But you might want to check out your local consignment or thrift stores first, to be sure the goods are free of moth holes and mustard stains.

—Mary Catherine O'Connor

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