Each year the holiday season brings immeasurable cheer, but it’s also accompanied by unsustainable waste. “Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year's holiday period than any other time of year. The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage,” Stanford University found. A more mindful approach to gift-giving can mitigate this trend without harming your budget.
Practiced sustainable consumers are familiar with the B Corporation certification, a label that marks businesses as meeting “the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.”
Many of these businesses achieve sustainability without sacrificing affordability. For example, Terra Thread partners with Fair Trade Certified factories in India to produce a variety of organic cotton products. From masks to pencil cases to bags, these reasonably priced goods prove the value of responsible supply chains.
You don’t need to stress over brands to shop sustainably. Skipping online shopping in favor of supporting local businesses avoids the emissions — and the extra fees — that are associated with shipping an order over a long distance to your doorstep. Thrift stores are a great choice. In addition to clothing, they often offer unique secondhand items such as dishware and books. Articles that otherwise would have been sent to landfills can find new homes this holiday season.
Sustainable, low-cost gifts that embody the most heart are often homemade. Anyone with a knack for baking knows few people will turn down a dessert that came straight from the giver’s oven. The holidays are the perfect time to whip out an old family recipe or try a new trend you saw your favorite food blogger share.
Less kitchen-savvy gifters can experiment with making body scrubs that rival the selections at Lush and Ulta. Depending on how complicated you want your end product to be, the directions can be as simple as combining brown sugar and oil — preferably Fair Trade Certified — in any suitable container. Adding an essential oil can give the mixture a pleasant scent, but double-check if the recipient has any allergies or skin conditions before getting fancy.
Not everyone is an artist, but almost everybody knows one. Consider commissioning a talented friend to create a piece inspired by the recipient. The result will be a personalized gift that benefits all parties involved.
Whatever you plan to give, make sure your sustainable intentions extend to the packaging. Companies like Wrappily offer 100% recyclable and compostable packaging options. You can also opt to make your own by utilizing leftover newspaper, scrap fabric and ribbons. Get into the habit of saving gift bags and tissue paper that you receive to reuse later.
If you don’t know the recipient well enough to decide what to give or if you simply ran out of time, making a charity donation in their name is quick and easy. Try to pick a cause that the person seems passionate about, and make sure to check the organization’s rating on charitynavigator.org before finalizing your decision.
After the holiday season ends, the planet continues to give us the priceless resources that sustain life and the beauty that makes it worth living. Consider giving back through ethical decision-making that is environmentally friendly and affordable.