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Be a green Santa with these holiday gifts

By Steve Almasy, CNN
Motorola says the MOTO W233 Renew is the first carbon-free cell phone in the world.
Motorola says the MOTO W233 Renew is the first carbon-free cell phone in the world.
  • Santa wears red, but he's green at heart, especially by using those canvas bags
  • Give the gift of carbon offsets; gift certificates are available online
  • Do the kids want a cell phone? Motorola makes a certified carbon-free model
  • Many who aspire to be green still need a compost bin

(CNN) -- If you ask someone if they want something green for Christmas, they're likely to ask for tens and twenties. But some of us wouldn't mind getting gifts that are good for the planet as well as our lifestyles.

These are the gifts for people who write, "Dear Santa, How are you? I've been good. I've been recycling and buying compact fluorescent light bulbs. But you know what I really want for Christmas?"

And Santa wants to help; he's a pretty green guy himself. He eschews the big jets that most package delivery companies use, opting for a good old fashioned animal-powered vehicle that covers the planet on a single tank of hay and the occasional handful of carrots.

The big guy has long been a fan of canvas sacks, and shoppers in the U.S. have been catching on to the beauty of reusable bags. Canvas shopping bags make an excellent, inexpensive present. Most grocery stores sell them for $1 or $2. But a lot of people still put their fruits and vegetables in plastic bags. partner Simple Ecology sells a set of three reusable produce bags for less than $12.

Although Santa's carbon footprint is probably small (he grows his own trees for toys and home fuel), the same cannot always be said for us, so why not buy carbon offsets to mitigate the energy use of a friend's home or car? TerraPass has different packages for funding clean energy projects. Prices of the packages range from $29.75 to $369. They even have gift certificates you can have e-mailed to your green friends.

The elves love cell phones. Motorola has what it calls the first certified carbon-free phone. So while your elf is texting away, he or she could be doing it on a device whose the housing is made from recycled bottles. And it's not just a gimmick; CNET says: "The Motorola Renew W233 is more than just a green device; it's also a decent phone."

Winter weather can play havoc on the skin, so someone on your "nice" list might enjoy some organic skin care items. Sephora sells products by Juice Beauty that are made without synthetic dyes or fragrances. Now, we're not saying the Clauses have bad skin, but folks who live year-round at the North Pole probably could use a gift set of skin-care products, priced from $29 to $45.

For those long nights when you just want to hide under the covers, organic cotton bedding is a good call. Pottery Barn offers a blanket in four colors, starting at $59. They also sell a comforter made from recycled plastic bottles and covered in organic cotton for $159 and up.

It's hard to imagine Santa talking on an iPhone, but everyone seems to have at least one small electronic device these days, whether it's a cell phone or portable music player or GPS unit (well, maybe he has a GPS to help guide his sleigh).

To keep those things powered up, Solio makes solar chargers. The company says its Classic version, sold at REI and other outdoors stores, works with more than 3,200 devices.

At the Claus house, composting is essential. There are composters of all sizes and even some for indoor use. To save food waste indoors before making one trip to the outside bin, a pail comes in handy. Most compost pails are made from stainless steel, though Williams-Sonoma sells a ceramic version.

If you want to buy your green friend an outdoor compost bin, Home Depot sells a spinning model (which means you don't have to take a small shovel to turn over dirt all the time) for $180.

And if you really want to make an impression, NatureMill makes electric indoor composters, a good choice for people in cold climates. The company says you should have good soil in just two weeks, and the composter doesn't stink.

For the college kid on your list, you might consider a car, but an electric bike could be a good alternative. We've written about them before. They are a little pricey but are designed to take the place of car miles while offering an assist to the biker who might have trouble climbing hills or covering 20 miles. Prices range from a few hundred dollars -- the E-Zip Trailz Hybrid costs $398 at Wal-Mart -- to more than $13,000 for OptiBike's top-end model.

Major bike manufacturers like Schwinn, Trek and Giant have models that are about $2,500 to $3,000 and sold at specialty shops.

So Santa, if you are reading, one in red, I mean green, please.