Go green with holiday gift shopping

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Gift wrapping background. Female hands packaging sweater as christmas present in maroon paper decorated with satin ribbon. Winter holidays concept. Top view of white wood table with fir tree branches

Image: Prostock-studio/Shutterstock

Every holiday it seems to be the same dang story. Rush to the store with all the crowds and look for the cheapest, most generic crap anyone could use (but will still end up in a dumpster). Then you end up with giant baskets of pure crap you’ll never use because everyone did the same for you.

Then you wonder where it all went wrong. When did we all decide we’re a bunch of boring adults, and as boring adults, it’s perfectly acceptable to give someone generic toiletries from the mall for the holidays? Synthetic toiletries some people can’t use because of sensitive skin issues.

You know something? Break the cycle this year! Fight the man! The holidays all went wrong because rather than buy one or two thoughtful gifts that someone can use, we’re pressured by advertisers to buy an endless slew of cheap plastic crap or hyper-synthetic junk people can’t use. That all ends up in a landfill.

It’s time to get thoughtful with our holidays so we can save our planet and save our sanity. Below are several ways to go green with your holiday shopping.

Go with Upcycled Gifts 

You might be surprised what the world of upcycling can yield. We’re talking stuffed animals made from old fabric, bike racks from old bike seats and handlebars, brand new candles made from layers of melted old candles that got too low to be useful, Mason jar terrariums, charging stations made from old vanity boxes, etc. It’s truly endless. And if you get creative enough, the stuff can look like it’s brand new and from the store! Either get crafting or turn to Etsy.

Think Charities and Gifts 

Make your gift mean something on a global scale. There are tons of charities out there that give gifts when you donate. Think of those programs that give stuffed animals when you symbolically adopt an animal, like the WWF or the Defenders of Wildlife. That stuffed animal can then go to a child in your life.

For adults, there are charities like Glass Baby that donate a percentage of the sales to certain causes when you buy their votive candleholders.

Find Vegan Gifts

If you’re concerned about the environment and the state of animals this holiday, find gifts that are totally vegan. Gifts from popular vegan companies are a good way to make a small dent in our environmental problems. There are tons of vegan ideas out there, like coats not made from down, organic soaps and vegan cookbooks.


Fight cheap crap made in China that make carbon emissions to ship here. Make something at home instead. Everybody loves a plate of cookies, or get really creative with some craft books. Going back to the upcycle point, you could also look up how to upcycle some of your own pesky old things you have lying around.

Buy Recycled and Biodegradable 

If you decide to buy new, try to go for recycled and biodegradable products. It’ll fight the sea of cheap plastic junk people are usually buying for presents that will just end up in a landfill.

There are all sorts of earth-friendly products out there, like Under the Nile Scrappy Dogs that are made from 100 percent organic Egyptian cotton and Grow Anthology skateboards that are made from recycled paper. Plus, Grow Anthology plants a tree for each board that’s sold.

Buy local

It’s no secret that shipping something from half the world away increases carbon emissions. So support your local economy this season and buy products that are handcrafted from local businesses and crafters. Hit up farmer’s markets and look for local craft fairs, too.

A culture and entertainment publication out of Chippewa Valley, Wisconsin estimated that if its readers spent $100 at local businesses individually they could all pump $7.5 million into their local economy. Buying local really does make a difference.

Give Smarter 

If you have a large family, buying for everybody can get really difficult. You lose track of what everyone wants or needs and then end up buying generic stuff no one wanted in the first place. That’s how waste happens.

Try doing a Secret Santa, and just pull names out of a hat. That way you have just one person to focus on, and you can put forth the required effort to get them something special that they would truly like.

Don’t be Afraid to Buy Used 

Not all your holiday gift shopping has to be brand new. Don’t be afraid to look at rummage sales and used stores. Used bookstores can be treasure troves for finding cool pop culture stuff someone in your life would like. A little digging, and odds are you can find something that looks brand new. And you’ll save money while conserving resources.

Michelle Lovrine Honeyager is a freelance writer living in Southeastern Wisconsin. You can find out more about her at

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