Green Your Holidays: 5 Tricks for Sustainable Shopping

Submitted by dpeacock on

It’s that magical time of the year again—but is the tradition of giving gifts at odds with your feelings about consumerism? Do you worry about the environmental impact of buying a bunch of new things that might not really be used?  Do you want a fat wallet, happy friends, and zero carbon-guilt? Of course you do!

5 tips for sustainable shopping and eco-friendly gift-giving

1. Giving & Receiving with Freecycle

Family and gifts can combine to make your home feel a little cluttered over the holidays. Right now is the time to take a preemptive strike at mess by paring down the stuff you already own.

Joining a Freecycle network is a great way to send your unwanted belongings on to a loving home. After signing up for your local Freecycle listserv, you’ll be able to send out notices about the items you want to give to other members, allowing them the opportunity to take that stuff off your hands.

Once you’ve given to the community a little, feel free to claim other items up for grabs. “Shopping” for holiday gifts on Freecycle can have an incredibly low carbon footprint, save you money, and help you give back to your community.

2. Thrift Store Shopping!

Buying something secondhand is much more environmentally friendly than buying it new. The fact that it’s easier on your wallet is just an added bonus. In the last issue of the Green American magazine, member Nancy Madsen had this to say about thrift store shopping:

“My large family didn’t want to stop exchanging gifts, but we didn’t want Christmas to break the bank, either—and we realized we were really losing the true Christmas spirit with all the stress of shopping. Probably 15 or 20 years ago, we decided to limit the amount spent to $5 per person and to encourage creativity. Many of us started resale shopping at places like Goodwill—or Value Village thrift stores, which support local nonprofits by paying them to collect used items.

"My family now spends one day shopping together in November, and we have lots of fun doing it. It has become a tradition that we all look forward to, and it has caused us to become resale shopping junkies. Now we buy most of our clothes at the resale shops as well. My sister and I have had numerous compliments on our outfits, and we often say Value Village is our clothing designer!"

3. Homemade Food & Body Care

Tiz the season for sneezin'—check out these home-made decongestant shower disks. Click on the image for a how-to.

Are you shopping for someone who seems to have everything they need, is moving to a smaller house, or otherwise cutting down on their belongings? Homemade food can be a great gift for these people.

Another option is homemade personal body care. Body care is often chock full of carcinogens and other toxins -- check out our article on poisons in conventional cosmetics and a few tips for protecting yourself.

Your homemade body care gifts will be safe for your loved ones and have a wonderful, personal touch. Plus, it will be used up, which is great for people who don't want "more stuff."

4. Homemade Gifts from Recycled Materials

You can transform recycled materials into unique gifts with super-low carbon footprints.

  • A hollowed out book can be a thoughtful gift for a younger kid wanting a place to hide secret treasures.
  • Have some old jewelry and wine-corks? Check out this tutorial for making gorgeous tree ornaments (I especially love the pictures).
  • Cut out colorful little squares of used wrapping paper and holiday cards and write a few dozen things you appreciate about your loved one. Place the notes in a mason jar and decorate with recycled ribbon or a piece of colorful cloth. More on that here.

5. Buying New? Buy Green! (Also Win Some Gorgeous Soaps.) If you’re like me and think you’ll end up buying one or two gifts new this year, consider buying from certified green businesses. You’ll be supporting the green economy, which includes Fair Trade, fair wages, and green practices from recycling to sustainable sourcing. Check out businesses in our National Green Pages® holiday guide.

If you want to go the extra mile, buy from businesses certified by Green America at the gold level. This certification means that, according to our screening process, they are "operating on the highest level of social and environmental responsibility in the way they source, manufacture, and market their products and run their offices and factories." You can read more about it here.

Simmons Natural Body Care is one business we’ve certified at the highest level—gold. Check out these gorgeous organic rainbow soaps. They’ve donated a basket of these to us to give away to one of you.

All you have to do to enter to win is tweet about this article using the following link: . If you don’t have a twitter account, just tell us about your own DIY gift traditions in the comments below, and we’ll enter you to win.

There are so many great ideas out there for greening your holidays. The most environmentally friendly ways are Freecycling, buying second hand or making gifts from recycled materials. If you're going to buy something new, just remember that there are some wonderful green business owners who have sustainability ingrained into every level of their business.

Your money has an impact on the world after you spend it—the holiday season is a great time to make sure the impact is a positive one.

Congratulations to last week's winner, Heather! Please email editors (at) greenamerica (dot) org to claim your Artisan Tea Blending Kit from Numi Tea.

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