As much as you may prioritize sustainable living in your own life, birthdays and the holiday season add a whole new challenge to making ethical shopping choices.
Trying to find eco-friendly gifts a few Christmases ago, I was disappointed in what I found. My failure to find what I was looking for made me realize that there are other people like me, people looking for and not able to find sustainable gifts.
As a result, Earthshopp was born. We expanded our mission beyond making sustainable gifts available. We set out to create an online marketplace carrying only sustainable products to make it easy and painless to make the best choices for the environment when shopping.
Following are some pointers on giving sustainably.
1. Give experiences
This option is my favorite. It's better than physical objects that may or may not end up being used and cherished; an experience can be an opportunity to create fantastic memories together.
An experience can be as simple as movie tickets. It can also be something more adventurous, like a family hot air balloon ride.
My husband gave our family a hot air balloon ride one year, and it was such a fun family experience!
Other ideas could be things like a cooking class, wine tasting, a trip to the spa, or a visit to a dark sky park to see the Milky Way.
This is something that can fit a wide range of budgets, and there can be limitless creativity in coming up an experience that will be enjoyed.
2. Made with Love
Another heartfelt and thoughtful type of gift-giving can be things you make yourself.
This could be a basket of cookies or baked goods. Or you can make canned preserves, homemade vanilla, or other homemade food items.
You can also make homemade bath salts, massage oils, or other bath and beauty products.
A significant benefit when you make your gifts is that you are completely in control of the quality of your ingredients. You will almost certainly use higher quality ingredients than if you bought the products pre-made. You can also ensure that your homemade gifts are plastic-free, palm oil-free, or address other environmental concerns that are important to you.
This may end up being quite a bit more work than going out and buying things, so make sure you allocate enough time to make everything you have planned without adding too much stress to the holidays!
I love this idea, and I have been hoping for years in my family to establish a tradition of a homemade gift exchange each Christmas. Can you imagine all the amazing, creative things you would get each year?
3. Buy Sustainable Products
These would be products that don't deplete finite resources and are produced in a way that can continue without harming ecosystems or using up resources, ideally in such a balance that it could go on forever.
The end of the life of the products is also important. Do they easily return to nature, or will they leave environmental problems after their life?
Some examples of materials that can be sustainable are things like glass, bamboo, silicone, stainless steel, and organic cotton. Of course, this depends on how these products are produced, but this is a good shortlist to give you an idea.
Earthshopp’s entire website has only sustainable products. We carry home products, baby and kids products, sustainable pets, etc. We currently have over 250 sustainable products, and we are constantly growing and looking to meet the needs of what people use and what they are looking for.
Finding the perfect gift from an antique shop or second-hand store can be a challenge, but you will hopefully be able to find something that your loved one will cherish.
5. Buy Quality
If you are going to buy new products, then keep in mind the practices of the brand but also the quality. There are some amazing products out there with a lifetime warranty.
There are brands like Patagonia that not only offer a lifetime guarantee, but they also have a “worn wear” program that allows you to trade in or buy used Patagonia gear.
Other brands that you can buy once to last a lifetime are Dr. Martens, North Face, Away luggage, and Osprey. There are many others. Check out the warranty before you buy because some companies cover defects but not normal wear and tear.
There are also other brands that may not offer a lifetime guarantee but they have excellent quality and are made to last a lifetime.
6. Donate to an Earth Friendly Program
This will, of course, depend on the person you are giving the gifts to. Your 3-year-old nephew might not appreciate a tree being planted in their name as much as your mom.
I did this a few years ago. My family went on a volunteer trip to Borneo, replanting areas degraded by earlier logging to create wildlife corridors for the orangutan and other native species. It was a tremendously rewarding experience for the whole family, and I admired the local people running the project so much that once we got home, I wanted to do more.
That Christmas, I gifted everyone in my extended family a tree planted in their name in Borneo. With this particular program, it was about $7 per tree. With each tree, I got a picture of the sapling in the ground and a certificate with the person's name on it and the type of tree and where it was planted.
This was a way to share my special experience with my family. The link for the organization I did the tree planting with, Ape Malaysia, is here.
You can also find out a cause that is near and dear to the heart of the person you are gifting and gift in their name.
7. Don’t forget the wrapping!
Conventional wrapping paper can be quite damaging to the environment.
Besides the deforestation to make the paper, a lot of conventional wrapping paper contains plastic, which makes it so that it cannot be recycled.
Take into account the environmental impact of your wrapping and plan accordingly.
Earthshopp currently carries Wrappily. They use only paper made from recycled newsprint that is completely compostable. They also have great prints that I love. I top it off with this compostable tape, and I am able to throw all my wrapping straight into the compost pile.
In lieu of bows, you can decorate your packages with clippings of pine, rosemary, pine cones, or other organic materials.
There are other sustainable wrapping paper companies, or with a bigger initial investment, you can use fabric and do beautiful Japanese furoshiki wrapping.
I wish you great luck with the upcoming holiday season and other gifting occasions.
While initially a challenge, striving to give sustainably can spark a lot of creativity and hopefully result in more meaningful gifts!