Each week through Christmas we're featuring a roundup of gift ideas on a different theme; next week look for our suggestions on food gifts. Every roundup will feature at least one item under $30. —Heather Kenny
With the CTA imploding and gas prices still rising, folding bicycles don't look so silly anymore. The Strida 5.0 reportedly folds up in six seconds, and at just 22 pounds it's easy to carry and stash, so there's no need to entrust your steed to those creaky bus bike racks. Also, there's no grease to get on your pants—it's got a Kevlar belt instead of a chain. a$799 at Rapid Transit Cycle Shop, 1900 W. North, 773-227-2288, or areaware.com.
Palo Alto-based SuperGreen Boards makes skateboards out of sustainable bamboo, which is 17 percent harder than maple, and uses low-VOC epoxy to laminate them. Buy one of three existing models or have a custom board made. a$175 for a deck only, $275 ready to ride, up to $400 for most custom orders, supergreenboards.com.
Fund research on soil restoration in Kenya, buy a Mayan community an hour with a lawyer to defend its land from mining companies, help researchers monitor coral reefs in the Turks and Caicos—these are just a few of the gift donations you can choose from at Changing the Present, a new nonprofit whose board of advisors includes the heads of the Sierra Club, Amnesty International, Teach for America, and other established nonprofits. a$2-$500 at changingthepresent.org.
Any way you look at it, recycling is good. But from a home decor standpoint, large, unsightly containers filled with recyclables are not. The award-winning Ecopod, designed with the folks who designed the BMW Z4, features an internal plastic and aluminum compactor you operate with your foot, bins for glass and paper, and even a slot for plastic grocery bags. a $328 at ecopod.org; on sale at williams-sonoma.com for $189.99.
The 11-part BBC documentary series Planet Earth won four Emmys this year for its stunning photography and clear-eyed presentation of nature and wildlife around the globe. a$79.98 or $99.98 (HD), amazon.com or local DVD retailers.
A National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands annual pass gets the holder and three friends free admission to every park and recreational site in the federal system, from Alaska to the U.S. Virgin Islands. a$80 at nps.gov.
Cheeky Monkey Jewelry designer Simon Cardwell fashions recycled gold and silver and fair-trade gems into pendants and brooches in the shape of threatened species from around the world, indcluding the Knysna seahorse and the king cobra. Ten percent of proceeds from the emperor penguin and polar bear pieces are donated to the World Wildlife Fund and the World Conservation Union, respectively. a $120-$565 at cheekymonkeyjewelry.com.
Noon Solar bags are made from hemp and cotton colored with natural dyes and leather tanned with sustainably harvested materials like walnuts and rhubarb, and each one incorporates a small solar panel that can charge devices like a cell phone or an MP3 player. Plus, the company's based in Chicago, so you're buying local as well. a$270-$410 at Pivot, 1101 W. Fulton, 312-243-4754 or noonsolar.com.
For your eco-conscious friend who wouldn't be caught dead in vegan Birkenstocks, The Lazy Environmentalist by Josh Dorfman, host of the Sirius radio show of the same name, compiles info and resources on how to shop conscientiously without sacrificing style or utility—from cars to cell phones to furniture to clothing. The book's printed on 100 percent postconsumer recycled paper and all energy used to print it was offset by the purchase of wind energy credits. a$14.95, amazon.com or area bookstores.