Green Gifts for Teachers: 5 Unique Gifts Under $50

In the digital age, the art of the graceful thank you gift and note is arguably more important than it ever was. The school year is drawing to a close and a thoughtful expression of appreciation often goes a long way in thanking a teacher for a hard-working year. Making an eco-friendly choice for a teacher gift is a nice added touch and resonates well with many teachers who are looking to go green at school and in their personal lives. The following ideas for earth-friendly teacher gifts under $50 are sure to leave more of an impact on the teacher than on the Earth.    1.  AusPen eco-friendly markers With budget cuts throughout the educational system, many teachers have to spend their own money on classroom supplies.  If your teacher uses whiteboards in the class, a set of non-toxic, refillable dry-erase markers is a long-lasting and practical gift. Made of recycled materials, AusPen markers are refillable with ink that is derived from vegetable dyes and denatured alcohol, so they won't cause nasty smells or horrible headaches. The set of 6 markers and their refill inks means your teacher won't have to throw away any more plastic markers or constantly go looking for fresh ones. 2.  PVC-free lunch and drink containers Lunch bags and drink containers that are PVC and lead-free will make lunch go down a little easier. Canvas or organic cotton lunch bags are a food-safe alternative, and they have the added bonus of eliminating all the waste associated with plastic baggies and wraps., and all offer re-useable lunch bags, and the Wrap-N-Mat holds your lunch and then opens up to a placemat for a clean eating surface. As for drink bottles, the stainless steel drinking container has effectively replaced plastic bottles, many of which leach bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone-disrupting chemical. While ceramic mugs from a local artisan shop are a good idea and make a unique gift, make sure to ask if the glaze is lead-free.  3.  Something for the garden or terrace  A potted plant is a great alternative to fresh cut flowers, as they will last longer and are generally more pesticide-free. Or, if you prefer a gift with an even longer-lasting appeal, your local nursery is sure to have a diversity of embellishments for an outdoor space, such as an ornament, window box, outdoor lantern, stepping stone or wind chimes. Helping your teacher enjoy the outdoors is a befitting way of thanking him or her for all the time spent indoors.  4.  A collection of tree-free paper products Presumably teachers enjoy the tactile and creative experience of writing or drawing. Currently, 90% of the world’s paper is manufactured from wood pulp, but there are so many new tree-free paper products on the market. Why not give your teacher a few new paper products to try out. A notebook made of crushed stone paper is not only heavier, but it also provides a smoother writing surface that is different to the touch and absorbs ink differently. Your teacher may have fun experimenting with the variety of new products available in stationery stores including paper made from coffee, banana leaf, lemon, tobacco, elephant dung (!), hemp, flax, cereal, straw, and corn.  5.  A gift card or donation A gift card can offer someone a gift that is less material and more experiential. A gift card to a restaurant or the movie theatre, or to experience something locally such as an exhibit or spa treatment are great alternatives to adding more stuff into your teacher’s life. Depending on the interests of your teacher, a charitable donation is also a thoughtful way of thanking him or her, in the spirit of paying it forward. If your teacher focuses on children, donating to a children’s charity such as a hospital, Make-A-Wish Foundation or Big Brothers Big Sisters is fitting. Otherwise, there are plenty of organizations such as, Plan USA/Canada, and UNICEF that provide much needed help to children in developing nations. Finally, the art of saying thank you is never quite complete without a sincere thank you note to express your gratitude. If the teacher is your child’s teacher, this is an essential teachable moment to help the child learn the importance of showing appreciation to others. If it’s the thought that counts in giving a gift, your teacher will certainly appreciate the eco-values you are supporting and the extra measure of thoughtfulness of a hand-written note or drawing.  

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