Spreading Holiday Cheer...Sustainably

Written by: Dr. Auriane Koster, Sustainability Manager

Black Friday and Cyber Monday seem to officially start the holiday-buying season. And boy do people buy a lot! In 2016, Americans each spent around $930 on holiday gifts, and $420 per child, with 56% of them racking up debt to do so! This is equal to a little over $300 billion spent on holiday gifts in the US alone! That’s the GDP of Singapore!

An important part of sustainability is conscientious buying. What if these billions of dollars were spent on gifts that are sustainably minded? Today’s blog is going to provide you with some sustainable gift-buying options. Are you buying for the person who already has lots of stuff? Why not donate to charity in their name?! You can choose a charity that relates to their values and their passions. Charity Navigator allows for an unbiased evaluation of charities based on two broad areas: their Financial Health and their Accountability & Transparency. Want to focus on a charity that is making our world more sustainable? Heifer International allows you to give the gift of a life-changing livestock animal to a family in need. You can also donate to help empower women, provide basic needs, and support sustainable farming.

The rainforest is our life force. Tropical rainforests comprise 2% of the world’s surface, yet they sustain 50% of all species. The Amazon Rainforest provides more than 20% of the world’s oxygen and contains 20% of the world’s fresh water. There are a few different opportunities to help protect the rainforest including: Rainforest Foundation, Rainforest Trust, World Land Trust, and Rainforest Alliance.

There are a number of gift-giving sites that focus on sustainable products. Eartheasy and Viva Terra both focus on sustainable living and eco-friendly gifts. UncommonGoods dedicates a section of their website to green gifts. Last year, I did the majority of my shopping from Benefit Wines and Charity Wicks. These sites allow you to purchase wines and candles where a majority of the proceeds go to the charity of your choice. Rescued Wine turns old wine bottles into soy candles, with the proceeds supporting animal rescues.

Repurposing is another great, sustainable way to give. You can look around your house and see if you have anything new or gently used that you know someone else would value much more than you do. There are also consignment options, like My Sister’s Closet and My Sister’s Attic, where you can get a great deal on designer clothes and home goods. Goodwill can be found throughout the country and sells used items, with the proceeds going to support their career centers. There are also many antique shops; one of my favorites in the valley is the Main Street Antique Mall in Mesa. The Thrift Shopper allows you to search for thrift stores in your area and Antique Malls helps you find, you guessed it, local antique malls!

Looking to save some money this year? Why not make something for your loved ones. Pinterest provides some great ideas for recycled crafts. Better yet, why not make something yummy! You can make your own herb-infused oils and mason jar treats.

Money Crashers has a great article that lists many opportunities to buy or make eco-friendly gifts. This holiday season, try and be sustainably minded. Hey, it might even save you some money!