Is there a crispness in the air?  Perhaps the faint tinkle of bells when the wind picks up?  Or a flash of red and green decorating your home and workplace?  Maybe the sky even holds a promise of snow?  Well, maybe not in Los Angeles...

That’s right.  It’s the Holiday season.  Odds are you’ll be giving gifts at some point in the coming month, whether it be to friends, family, or casual acquaintances in a “Secret Santa” type scenario.  Some people can be challenging to buy for, so how can we keep our gift recipients happy while also staying virtual water friendly?

Generally speaking, avoiding new products is the best way to save virtual water – “used” items will always have a virtual water content of 0, or at the worst, of the gas you use to pick it up and the materials you use to wrap it.  If the thought of giving a used item feels too much like “re-gifting,” look for the really used: the artisanal, the antique, and the retro.  Your fashion-forward friend may be delighted by some vintage threads from the 60’s and 70’s, or a couple with a new home might appreciate turn-of-the-century antique décor.  Art lovers will appreciate a one-of-a-kind piece you discover at a flea market, and family members will feel a particular connection to heirlooms you may have acquired from a parent or grandparent long ago.

Are antiques and vintage “used” items not an option?  Consider home-made gifts instead.  If you can make your gifts out of something you had around anyway and save yourself from having to buy new materials, your savings will be all the greater.  For example, maybe you had a fruit tree that you irrigated with grey water this year: who wouldn’t appreciate a jar of home-made jam?  Or, if you’re a meat eater and have a cup of grease waiting to be thrown out, maybe you could make some unique homemade soap.

Of course, there’s always going to be that one gift recipient who’s almost impossible to shop for: the fan who only wants collectibles for his favorite TV show or movie; the child who wants the newest, shiniest toys; or the mysterious cousin who only requested gift cards.  Can you save virtual water and still please the picky recipient?

Yes!  Just shop at stores that stock products that are local (save on the gasoline virtual water of shipping) and made of plant-based natural materials (because plant agriculture is generally more water-friendly than animal agriculture or synthetic material production).

With these basic guidelines, you should be able to find a pleasing gift for everyone.  And this Holiday season, you can give a gift to an important and often-neglected force in all our lives: Mother Earth.