It’s no secret that the environment is in dire need of some love—the pollution from cars, airplanes, and plastic waste is damaging lands, the ocean, killing crops and more, according to National Geographic. It can feel hard to know what to do to offset these issues, but as we enter the holiday season, one thing you can do is focus on eco-friendly shopping as you shop for Christmas gifts.
Here’s how to stay eco-friendly when doing your holiday shopping.
When doing your holiday shopping, don’t use the plastic or paper bags that stores give out—they’re not good for the environment. Instead, bring a few reusable bags to fill with the items you need this holiday season. You can get reusable bags from your local grocery store or bring some sturdy canvas bags to fill up.
The ways this helps the planet can’t be underscored. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, “Americans use an average of 365 plastic bags per person per year” and each plastic bag takes “1000 years for a plastic bag to degrade in a landfill,” and even then, they aren’t gone—they turn into microplastics that pollute the environment. It’s a lose-lose. But, you can help by cutting out the plastic bags you use this holiday season and turning to your reusable bags instead.
Holiday cards are nice, but, they typically go right in the trash can when the holiday ends—and they instantly get added to the tons of paper waste that collect in this country every year. Instead of buying cards, send a loved one an e-card or put a holiday message on social media. If you are someone who really loves the card tradition, you can make cards using items that are already in your home—there’s no reason to go out and buy more paper goods.
It’s no secret that holiday shopping days can be exhausting and busy—you’ll probably want some water to keep you full and fueled as you check things off your Christmas list. You can help protect the planet by bringing along a reusable water bottle instead of purchasing plastic water bottles throughout the day. Better yet, many stores and malls have water bottle refill stations for reusable bottles.
By making this switch, you’ll be helping to save our beautiful oceans—according to National Geographic, about half of the world’s plastic pollution ends up in the ocean, which is terrible for the health of our planet and ocean-dwelling animals.
By shopping at second-hand stores like thrift shops and vintage stores, you’ll be giving gifts a second home that isn’t a massive landfill. You don’t have to do all of your holiday shopping at second-hand stores, but you can do some of it at these establishments to offset all of the new items you're buying for your family (some gifts are just better when purchased as new, anyway).
Second-hand stores are particularly a good place to find picture frames, vintage art, vases and general home décor. Things like women’s sleepwear, women’s raincoats, t-shirts, and things of the sort tend to be best when purchased new—though you can occasionally find almost-new pieces of clothing at second-hand stores, too.
Everyone has those gifts that you’ve never used, whether it’s a birthday gift from a colleague or an item you won at a neighborhood event. They typically collect dust in the closet or the basement, and while this item may not be a fit for you, it may be for someone on your Christmas shopping list. Look through your storage areas to see if you have any unopened items—things like unlit candles in a scent that may not be for you, an unopened board game, or a bottle of wine—that you can re-gift to someone on your holiday shopping list.
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with regifting, especially (and only!) if it’s an item you think a loved one will truly love. Maybe you received some winter gloves that you already own, or maybe you don’t like the smell of lavender but your best friend does. That can make that unopened lavender candle a great gift for them. Regifting is only a problem when it’s thoughtless or when the item is partly used, it’s not a problem if it’s an unopened item that you think a loved one will truly want.
With just a little thought and some planning, there are many things you can do to have a more eco-friendly holiday shopping season. And, best of all? Your loved ones won’t even know the difference in what they find under the Christmas tree.