The holidays are a joyful time, and there's little that feels as good as giving someone you love the perfect gift. But the ad-driven imperative to Buy! Buy! Buy! can pollute that well of good will, the difficulty deciphering marketing claims can make you dizzy, and the mountains of packaging waste leftover afterward can leave you feeling, well, dirty.
With Black Friday (and, shall we call it, Black-as-Midnight Thursday?) upon us, the official start of the Christmas shopping season is here.
Here, we offer a few tips to keep the joy in holiday gift shopping, while keeping it green.
1. Make a List
Before buying, make a list of the items you might purchase for the people in your life, along with the cost of each item. Then, sleep on it. Modern marketing has made an art of turning the shopping experience into a cognitive morass that confuses your brain into spending too much money on things you don't need. Eliminate the waste by following Santa's example. A list will help you make better decisions and keep to a budget.
See The Daily Green's 2010 green gift guide for 100s of green gift ideas.
2. Check it Twice
Before making a purchase, check the price to get a good deal. But also check out the product and manufacturer. Greenpeace rates the makers of electronics (Nokia and Sony top the list), the Rainforest Action Network has just identified three publishers of children's books to avoid (because their policies support Indonesian deforestation) and HealthyToys.org will help you avoid toxic toys. Using resources like these are important, since marketing claims are often misleading.
See these safe green toys for all ages.
3. Shop Online
Online shopping is generally a greener way to shop, essentially because trucks can deliver goods efficiently and it takes a lot less energy to run a warehouse for boxes of goods than a mall. So take a break from leftover turkey and check out the deals online.
4. Donate While You Shop
Donations to major charities were down 11% last year, according to a Chronicle of Philanthropy report documenting the worst decline in 20 years. Sites like Good Shop, We-Care.com, iGive and giveandshop.com work with major retailers like Amazon.com to channel a portion of profits to the charities you choose. (For books, betterworldbooks.com is a great option.) In addition, many credit cards encourage the accumulation of points that can be applied to your balance, redeemed for purchases or donated to charity. You could elect to donate the points accrued during the holiday to charity. Both are painless ways to essentially direct corporate profits to charities of your choice. If you want to empower your loved one to give, a TisBest gift card allows them to give your money to the charity of their choice, while microlending sites like kiva.org allow your loved one to loan your money to a person in need of their choosing.
5. Shop from Your Favorite Charity
Modern non-profits often have marketplaces of their own, and the proceeds of sales benefit the organization's mission. Some examples: WWF, The Nature Conservancy and the Hudson Sloop Clearwater. Before exploring the for-profit options, see if your favorite non-profit has the right item.
See these 11 Alternative Gifts: Give, without giving "stuff".
Check out these 20+ great green gifts under $20.
7. Buy Local
When you do leave your desk and hit the streets, look for opportunities to buy from local artists, artisans and businesses. That way the dollars you spend contribute more to the community where you live. Downtown business districts have suffered in the last generation as shoppers got in the habit of shopping at suburban malls, but you can join the movement to revitalize city districts by spending your holiday dollars there. A vibrant downtown helps preserve outlying farms, forests and open spaces by attracting development to urban centers.
8. Buy Certified Gifts
Whether you're buying electronics (Energy Star), clothing (Organic), jewelry (Fair Trade, Conflict Free) or books (Forest Stewardship Council), there's likely a reputable third-party government or non-profit certification program that has already done the hard work of vetting the product. Shop for products made by companies that consistently pay fair wages and manufacture products without burdening the environment. In addition to The Daily Green's green gift guide, you can find great suggestions on the Web, including at The Nature Conservancy's Green Gift Monday site, which is part of a campaign to turn Cyber Monday in a sustainable direction.
Check out these organic and Fair Trade gifts for the women in your life.
9. Reduce Waste Before It Happens
The mound of wrapping paper, plastic clam shell packaging, boxes and ribbons filling trash bags on the curb Dec. 26 isn't made on Christmas morning. It's made with each purchase during the shopping season. Choose products made from recycled materials, with minimal recyclable packaging... and be creative when you wrap your gifts. You might just find that you end up with less waste than when you started!
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.