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Behind the Headlines: Rethinking Father's Day Gifts

06/13/2013 12:20 EDT | Updated 08/13/2013 05:12 EDT
Etsy: LennyMud

In a unique take on daily news hits, Free The Children founders Craig and Marc Kielburger go behind the headlines to explore how the stories you read are connected to the causes you care about.

Dads are tough to shop for. A practical consumer subset, Dads aren't known to request extravagant gifts, splurging instead on water heater filters and five-packs of white T-shirts. And if Father's Day ads are any indication, there is a small niche for Dad hobbies -- wearing ties, barbequing, golfing -- that somewhat limit gift-giving options.

Gift giving under these conditions can lead to impulse purchases and last-minute knickknacks that will live in storage. Since it was Dad who taught you to "Waste not, want not," why not make that your Father's Day mantra and avoid the wasteful consumer cycle?

We found these eco-conscious, sustainable alternatives to some of the most popular Father's Day gifts for the socially conscious Dad.

Neckties: Upcycle a closet staple

Maybe your Dad has retired. Maybe he's recently ditched the corporate boardroom for a tech start-up. Or maybe he just hates wearing ties. No matter: It's common wisdom that all Dads have a stash of neckties leftover from presents past, waiting to make an appearance at special occasions. Unless you want to see Dad sporting your Father's Day gift circa-1990 at your wedding, salvage those chunky neckties for a nobler purpose.

Ecouterre offers five suggestions for re-vamping ties in time for Father's Day, including a guitar strap, iPod cover and pillowcase. You'll upcycle the fabric for something more useful, avoid buying a new item or throwing away the old ties -- and Dad will have a unique handmade gift.

Golf: A good walk without spoiling the environment

Ironically, manicuring the pristine greens on a golf course might actually harm Mother Nature. Pesticides and fertilizers seep into groundwater and can damage natural habitats, all for the sake of preening a faux-pastoral landscape. But golf courses across Canada are getting greener with creative takes on the centuries-old sport.

The most unusual solution? Goats as groundskeepers. Whipper and Snipper eat stray weeds at Settlers' Ghost Golf Club, just north of Barrie, Ont. The goats are a cheaper, environmentally-friendly alternative to harmful chemicals. Don't worry: They graze out of the range of stray balls.

Farm animals are optional. The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses evaluates impact and certifies sustainable practices. Treat Dad to a round at one of their certified courses in Canada or the U.S. Make it a gift set and add a pack of used or recycled golf balls and biodegradable tees.

Grill without warming the globe

It might be tough to get Dad to give up his charcoal grill. And while solar grills are slowly gaining popularity around the world, it's unreasonable for most families to own two barbeques. But if you're already looking to upgrade, consider a fuel-free option from Sun Ovens International. Bonus: The grills are available worldwide, and the company works with developing communities to encourage solar cooking as a smoke-free, fossil-fuel free alternative. It's an investment, but the grill promises to save the user money in fuel costs in the long term.

Naturally, you need the sun in order to get your solar grill on. But a heat-storing prototype is in the works for nighttime barbeques. If Dad won't give up his cedar-smoked salmon, at least opt for a ceramic grill to better retain the heat, and use organic charcoal or natural gas since both emit less carbon emissions than traditional charcoal.

Style with a story

If Dad still wears his ties, if he doesn't golf or if Mom does all the grilling, try these African Trade Bead cufflinks from Me to We. Handmade and sourced from local artisans in developing communities, each cufflink features trade beads customarily given to African chiefs by European traders looking for safe passage across the continent.

Since half of Me to We's profit is donated to Free The Children and the other half is reinvested to grow the Me to We social mission, your gift to Dad gives back.

Green Gift Guide 2012

Craig and Marc Kielburger founded the international charity and educational partner, Free The Children. Its youth empowerment event, We Day, is in 11 cities across North America this year, inspiring more than 160,000 attendees from over 4,000 schools. For more information, visit www.weday.com