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by Roddy Scheer & Doug Moss

Dear EarthTalk: I’m looking for cool holiday gift ideas for a strident vegan who won’t tolerate items that make use of animals or animal products. Any ideas?         -- Doug Halpern, Washington, DC


Well…an Omaha Steaks gift box is definitely off the table as an idea, but there are plenty of great gift options for the vegans or even just the animal-friendly among us. Food-wise, how about a gift certificate to the recipient’s favorite vegan restaurant or natural foods store? Or how about a subscription to Vegan Cuts’ monthly “Vegan Snack Box” containing chips,cookies, sodas, teas and other vegan goodies, delivered right to the doorstep($222/annual or $22.95/month)? Kids (and their vegan parents) might like Vegan Cuts’ No Whey! Christmas Extravaganza! Gift Box ($35.50) containing an assortment of vegan candies including whey-free chocolate. Yet another option is Vegan Store’s Care Package Basket ($54.95), containing vegan versions of mac’n’cheese, jerky, parmesan, cookies, taco filling, chocolate bars and even"chicken" noodle soup.


Personal care products are another retail segment where vegan products are starting to flood the marketplace. Lush Cosmetics, Mineral Fusion and Andalou are just a few of hundreds of U.S. based firms now selling vegan-friendly make-up, moisturizer, soap, shampoo and other health and beauty products. To find more, check out the Environmental Working Group (EWG) free“Skin Deep” cosmetics database.


DIY-types might want to consider making their own vegan health and beauty products to give to that finicky vegan you love. Earth 911 has collected and linked out to a list of some 50 “recipes” you can use to make your own peppermint sugar scrub bars, calendula lavender salves or coconut mocha face masks.


And remember: Being vegan is about much more than what you put in or slather on your body. If that special vegan someone needs new kicks,check out Merrell’s line of vegan-friendly shoes and sandals, featuring a wide range of casual and technical footwear options for men and women. Some other manufacturers of vegan-friendly active footwear lines include Garmont, Brooks,Wills, Lowa, Treksta, Keen and Zamberlan. Meanwhile, the vegan glamour girl on your list might like a new pair of heels from Olsen Haus, which crafts stylish women’s footwear from renewable plant-based materials and man-made materials—but no animal products despite the fact that their shoes often look like real leather or suede.


Vegans who like to wear their lifestyle choice on their sleeve might like a t-shirt or bracelet from the online store of leading vegan blogger Vegan Zombie. Screen-printed designs look hip and feature pro-vegan messaging. And warm up that chilly vegan with Save the Duck’s Hooded Puffer Jacket featuring Plum tech down-replacement vegan insulation. For a wealth of additional ideas for gifts for vegans with a flair for clothing, check out thenon-profit Farm Sanctuary’s Vegan Fashion Shopping List which links out to dozens of animal-friendly, cruelty-free clothing and footwear lines.


Of course, non-vegans would love receiving any of these gifts as well, giving the giver the satisfaction of doing the right thing byanimals and the environment whether or not the recipient appreciates it.


CONTACTS: Vegan Cuts, vegancuts.com; VeganStore, veganstore.com; LushCosmetics, www.lushusa.com; Mineral Fusion, www.mineralfusion.com;Analou, www.andalou.com; EWGSkin Deep, ewg.org/skindeep/;Earth911’s 50 DIY Natural Handmade Beauty Products, goo.gl/uMYrzi;VivaTerra, www.vivaterra.com;Merrell Vegan-Friendly Shoes & Sandals, merrell.com/US/en/vegan-friendly-shoes-sandals/; Treksta Vegan Styles, trekstausa.com/vegan_styles; OlsenHaus, olsenhaus.com; VeganZombie, veganzombie.com; Savethe Duck, savetheduckusa.com.


Dear EarthTalk: I want to set a good environmental example with my gift-giving this holiday season. Any tips on how—or even better, what—to give greener? -- Jane P., Bowie, MD


The holidays are a time for giving but it is also important to be conscious about spending your gift budget wisely to eliminate packaging waste, buy products that will last and patronize manufacturers and retailers known for social and environmental responsibility.


So, what are some ideas? The Waterpebbleis a great gift for anyone trying to lead a greener lifestyle. This gadget tracks how much water you use in your shower. After programmed, it signals a yellow light at your half-shower mark and flashes red when it's time to turnoff the faucet.


Music lovers might like the iBamboospeaker. This portable bamboo speaker for iPhones 4,5,6, and 7 requires no batteries or electricity and has no wires — it’s just a simple block of bamboo that projects sound using natural acoustics.


If the iBamboo isn’t loud enough, try eco-amp from eco-made. While it does use electricity,the eco-amp is made out of all recycled materials and can in turn be entirely recycled when it’s useful life is over—and it’s made in the USA, which helps employ Americans while saving on transportation emissions.


The environmental clothes horse on your list may appreciate a shirt or some pants from AlternativeApparel, which uses non-toxic dyes on eco-friendly fabrics and makes 80 percent of its garments with sustainable materials. Another eco-friendly clothing brand is United By Blue,which pays to pull a pound of trash from water bodies for each of its fashionable and comfortable items sold.


Kids may not care whether their gifts are good for the environment, so it’s up to us adults to make sure we are setting a good example and spending our money on “good” gifts. You can’t go wrong for your kiddo witha bamboo bank from Jones and Mae. The eco-friendly three-way (share/save/spend) box teaches the importance of charity and saving. Meanwhile, Green Toys sells a wide range of 100 percent recycled kids products, including books, toy cars, baby toys and more at reasonable prices.


Of course, holiday presents do not always have to be physical items. A great idea for gifts that are personal and different are sports/active lessons. Would someone you love appreciate tennis lessons, an art class, or a yoga gift certificate? The holidays are meant to show those who are special to you how much you love them and there are no better gifts than those that are personal, thoughtful and not only good for those who receive but also the environment!


And let’s not forget that there is more to greener holiday shopping than just what you buy. Don’t forget that your reusable shopping bags aren’t just for the grocery store anymore: Bring them with you to the mall, as well, so you don’t have to waste your favorite retailers’ plastic or paper shopping bags. Also, if you’re going to wrap your gifts, make sure to use recycled wrapping paper, or even better, get creative and repurpose some other paper materials lying around as gift wrap.


CONTACTS: iBamboo speaker, goo.gl/qDVewi; Eco-made, www.eco-made.com;Alternative Apparel, www.alternativeapparel.com; United By Blue, www.unitedbyblue.com; Jones and Mae Bamboo Bank, goo.gl/QG6soK; Waterpebble, goo.gl/XGpFRD.


Dear EarthTalk: How will climate change affect real estate values?

                                                                                                                        -- Jeremy Willson, Oxnard, CA


It’s not surprising that questions like these are on readers’ minds today, given the relentless hurricanes in the Southeast, the devastating wildfires in California and other climate-related “Acts of God” bedeviling Americans recently. No doubt, climate change is already having an effect on real estate values.


Of course, the 40 percent or so of Americans who live in coastal areas are at most risk of financial loss, given rising sea levels and the increase in intense storms and attendant flooding. A recent analysis by Attom Data Solutions found that home sales in flood-prone areas grew 25 percent less quickly than in counties not prone to flooding over the last five years.


“If sea levels rise as much as climate scientists predict by the year 2100, almost 300 U.S. cities would lose at least half their homes, and 36 U.S. cities would be completely lost,” says Krishna Rao, Director of Economic Product & Research at Zillow. Across the country, some 1.9 million homes—worth some $882 billion in the aggregate—are at risk of literally being “underwater” as sea levels rise in coming decades.


Those states with lots of people living along their coastlines would be hardest hit. “More than one in eight properties in Florida are in an area expected to be underwater if sea levels rise by six feet,representing more than $400 billion dollars in current housing value,” reports Rao.


But living away from the coast doesn’t guarantee your real estate values won’t be affected by climate change, given the increase in extremely warm days across the country and the extension of the wildfire season across much of the West. Verisk, an insurance industry data analytics provider,reports that more than two million homes within California alone are already located in high risk zones.


“The amount of fire that is projected to increase in  a warmer world is an increase of anywhere between 100 percent and 600 to 700 percent, and that’s just with [a 1ºC increase in global average temperature],”says Mika Tosca of the non-profit Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). “And if we’re projected to see 6º C of warming, you can imagine what’s going to happen.”


To make matters worse, the insurance system isn’t keeping pace with the onslaught of climate effects. When Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston in late August 2017, 85 percent of the victims didn’t have flood insurance and had to start all over again financially. And while fire insurance may be required as part of owning property, the economic impacts of increasing wildfires—so far residential insured losses from the October wine country fires alone total upwards of $3 billion—could be a head shot to the insurance industry if it doesn’t raise premiums across the board accordingly.


So even if your home isn’t directly affected by climate change, your pocketbook will be, given that everyone’s rates will need to go up to pay for an increasing number of catastrophic property claims.


CONTACTS: Attom Data Solutions, attomdata.com; Zillow,zillow.com; Verisk, verisk.com; UCS, ucsusa.org.


EarthTalk® is produced by Roddy Scheer & Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of the nonprofit Earth Action Network. To donate, visit www.earthtalk.org. Send questions to: question@earthtalk.org.

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