With holidays — and the whole climate crisis deadline — around the corner, let’s talk about the harm that holiday shopping wreaks on the environment, and some much more sustainable alternative gifting practices you can try instead. From production to shopping to shipping and gifting, there are many environmentally conscious decisions you can make this holiday season and practice for years to come.
1. Support small, local businesses.
Shop locally if possible. You can reduce pollution from commuting by visiting local shops on foot, a bike, or public transportation. Even a short drive makes a difference, as transportation makes up 27% of all greenhouse gas emissions. You save time, money, and energy on commuting and limit your carbon footprint.
Not only that but small businesses’ products are often handmade or produced locally. Shopping locally reduces reliance on manufacturers that must ship their products for thousands of miles to get to your community, meaning less fuel waste and less pollution.
If you can’t support a small business in person, consider ordering from those that create their products using locally sourced goods rather than major retailers. Mass-produced items often generate water, air, and soil pollution as well as wildlife destruction.
2. Do all your online shopping in one fell swoop.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the pandemic increased e-commerce by 43%. The habits that consumers developed in those early days of staying home haven’t left us. It has fundamentally changed the way we shop, and home delivery is more popular than ever.
However, shopping online can be more harmful than going in person. Frequent online purchases often result in packaging waste. These items often come from multiple distribution centers, putting more miles on the road to get to you. And to make matters worse, customers routinely order fewer items per transaction online. To limit this waste, order as infrequently as possible, ideally everything you need at once and products that can be shipped from a single distributor.
3. Shipping fees might be worth it.
Another thing – the cost of shipping and order minimums to qualify for free shipping can be huge deterrents to ordering from certain retailers. Paying $15 shipping on top of a $200 order? Gross! And of course no one generally ships as quickly, cheaply, or conveniently as Amazon. Amazon sends around 1.6 million packages a day, exhausting workers, putting millions of miles on the road, and creating an undeniable amount of packaging waste. Naturally, it’s horrible for the environment. If you can afford it, paying for more ethical shipping is absolutely worth it.
If you’re an Amazon prime member, we challenge you to avoid the free two-day shipping temptation for gift shopping. (Next challenge: Just get rid of your membership.) Save yourself some money by not purchasing expedited shipping from other retailers. Be thoughtful and intentional about your process.
4. Buy and order early.
Start shopping today! You can avoid last-minute shipping by buying what you need ahead of the holiday rush.
Waiting until the last minute is forcing bad shipping practices, regardless of whether you’re shopping online or in person. Remember our challenge?
5. Avoid traditional wrapping paper.
Eco-conscious choices shouldn’t end when you purchase just your gifts. We produce over 4 million pounds of wrapping paper waste every year. That’s enough to fill 6,000 football fields.
Give your loved one another gift along with the main event: reusable wrapping paper! You can use bags, fabric, and newspapers. But you don’t have to sacrifice a festive print for sustainability. Grab yourself some beeswax wrapping paper — all the holiday cheer of disposable wrapping paper with the perk of reusability. Sustainable gift wrap is typically more expensive, but it is an investment (which, of course, you can get your money’s worth by reusing) and a beautiful gift that won’t end up in the trash.
If you are tired of giving your loved ones stuff every year that just ends up cluttering their homes, consider checking out our other blog post, Top 10 ideas for sustainable, environmentally friendly holiday gifts, to get started.
Cheers and happy gifting!