How to Shop Sustainably for the Holidays

In the next month or so, our days will be reserved for the celebration of love, gratitude and loyalty, to our friends and family, all of us spending time together over a feast and exchanging presents to express our appreciation and closeness. Could there be a better way, then, to use this opportunity to make ethical choices in every department of your celebrations?

From the locally harvested food, hand-crafted wrapping, to recycling everything there is to put to use once again, you can make a difference this season by making smarter, more eco-friendly choices. As for the famous holiday shopping spree – here’s how you can turn it into an Earth-friendly and wallet-appropriate adventure!

Purpose and re-purpose go hand in hand

How many times have you received the infamous ugly Christmas sweater from your overly-enthusiastic aunt? Too many to count, I assume. While it’s polite to keep your complaints to yourself, use this as a lesson, and perhaps a chance to show your aunt how it’s done. Choosing gifts with purpose means respecting preferences and needs of your recipient. So, if a new mom could use a set of organic skincare or something for her little nestling – it cannot hurt to ask, and give them what they need, and will actually use.

The same goes for giving away your own oldies, items that are well-past their prime of youth, but they can serve a different purpose in a different home. One of my close friends created a unique bedding set out of her vintage dresses and shirts, making them a perfect present for someone who just moved in to a new home. Not to mention the emotional value – such a simple gift, yet priceless in the eyes of the recipient.

Experiences over things

Gift-giving doesn’t have to be limited to tangible, material items, especially if your friends and family appreciate a gift that extends past the holidays. Two tickets for a weekend getaway for your married friends, a month-worth of dance lessons for your parents, a painting class for your little niece, or a few concert tickets always make for incredible presents.

Secondhand and hand-made

Still with purpose, our planet and our neighbors in mind, staying away from malls and major shopping centers will help you find presents whose purchase helps support your local community, spread the word of their creativity, and give a truly authentic gift to be used for years on end. Think: handmade jewelry of recycled materials, clothing tailor-made by locals and of fabrics that are locally-sourced, ethically produced and the like.

There are also bundles of incredible clothing items just sitting in someone’s wardrobe, someone has outgrown them or got tired of them. To find the perfect match for your picky nephew for instance, you can shop at Swap and take your pick among many second-hand items that are waiting for a new home. Perhaps some of your things also fall into this category – maybe you’ll give your friend that dress of yours you haven’t worn for ages, and she’s madly in love with it.

Go pesticide, package and petrol-free

Picking out your tree is a precious part of the holiday, but if you choose a live tree you can re-plant once again after the holidays, you’ll make an even greater contribution to Mother Nature. If possible, go for pesticide-free tree farms for even greater impact.

Going back to gift-giving, you can skip packaging altogether if you’d choose plastic or paper, but you can instead wrap them into something equally purposeful. Don’t send your gifts in mail if you can deliver them personally, send e-cards and do your best to shop online, all of which will significantly reduce your carbon footprint.

Donate as a gift

It can be a group effort, a family tradition, or your sole effort to bring a smile to someone’s face this season, and make it a gift to a loved one. You can easily donate to a charity or a cause you all believe in, as giving is the true spirit of Christmas, and I’m sure your friends would be thrilled.

You can also turn it into a full-day of work and donate your time as a group in the local homeless shelter, a children’s hospital, a nursing home, or anything that resonates with you.

By Amy Mia Goldsmith

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