two snowmen exchanging a gift

We all want to do our part to help the environment. Then the holidays roll around, and POOF! Suddenly our carbon footprint grows bigger than a Yeti’s. We spend too much, stand in line (virtual and IRL), and even feel resentful about holiday gift-giving.

How can we stay true to our sustainability values when we’re expected to buy, buy, and buy some more? Maybe this holiday season we need to reframe our thinking on gift-giving. To be more mindful of what we purchase and its impact, not just on our generation, but on future generations.

Make your decisions on behalf of the seven generations coming, so that they may enjoy what you have today.” —Chief Oren Lyons, Native-American faithkeeper, human rights advocate, and environmental activist

On the other hand, our here-and-now relationships matter, too. Gift-giving strengthens social and familial bonds. Heck, it even brings us joy. We don’t want to step out of gift-giving altogether. Just enough to tread a little more lightly on our planet.

Online Sustainable Marketplaces

There you are, scrolling through social media. Up pops the coolest-looking, sustainable something-or-other that would make the perfect gift. You click over to the website, enter all your information, and make the purchase. Great. Now you can check off one gift on your list.

Do you really want to go to a dozen different websites to find sustainable gifts? Probably not. Not when there’s another way.

Earth-friendly marketplaces will make your holiday shopping a whole lot easier. They are a boon to people wanting to gift sustainably. Here are a few benefits to shopping marketplaces:

  • They have sustainability woven into their mission.
  • They offer a whole range of products. You won’t have to go to several websites to find different gifts for different people.
  • They check out the credibility of the brands they support.

Earth Hero

Earth Hero curates thousands of unique products from compostable phone cases to sexual wellness products. Searches can be filtered by sustainability features such as recycled content, renewable materials, and responsibly sourced materials. During their holiday sale, Earth Hero will plant five trees for every order.

Simple Switch

Simple Switch allows you to search their products using over 30 “impact points.” Want to do business with folks who pledge fair trade practices? Want to support businesses that empower women? Clean water? Veterans? They sell clothes, home goods, jewelry, and sweets.

The Package Free Shop

When you’re looking for thoughtful yet affordable gifts, The Package Free Shop has your back. They sell personal care and home essentials with a range of pricing options. Many of their products — silicone sandwich bags, beeswax food-wrap — replace single-use items. Others are plastic- and package-free alternatives to personal care products, such as shampoo bars, and plastic-free tooth floss.

Introduce a New Hobby — Microgreens

If you want to give the most unusual gift this season, buy a microgreen kit. Microgreens are vegetable greens that are harvested when they are young and tender. They are packed with vitamins and minerals and can easily be grown at home using a kit. They don’t need a grow light. A sunny window or even overhead light will do the trick. Hamama’s kit comes with a grow tray, instructions, and three seed quilts.

Hamama microgreen grow kit
Image: Amazon

Donations to Environmental Action Groups

Donations don’t take up any room in your giftee’s home. They don’t have to be dusted or protected from damage. For the environmentalist on your list, the perfect sustainable gift may be as easy as a donation to their favorite environmental action group.

Take a look at these worthy organizations:

The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy is focused on protecting biodiversity on a global scale. Since their beginning in 1951, they have protected more than 125 million acres of land in over 70 countries. The Nature Conservancy supports over 100 marine conservation initiatives.

National Resources Defense Council

National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) began 50 years ago with the purpose of protecting the environment. They aim to “safeguard the earth — its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends.” NRDC earns high marks from Charity Navigator, so you know your donation is going to be used well by the organization. Their work encompasses litigation on behalf of the environment, research, and advocacy.

5 Gyres

Before 5 Gyres came along, most people didn’t know the term gyre. Gyres are large areas where ocean currents converge and swirl in circular patterns. There are, you guessed it, 5 major ones in the world’s oceans — the largest known as the Pacific Garbage Patch. Gyres trap trash (mostly plastic). 5 Gyres conducts on-the-water scientific research and was instrumental in the development of the Microbeads-Free Water Act in 2015.

ocean waves breaking along a rocky coastline
Image: Kanenori from Pixabay

Shop Local and Support Small Businesses

Last, but not least, power down your computer and go out into your community. Visit small mom-and-pops and entrepreneurs. Local shops boast a one-of-a-kind shopping experience. They’re your neighbors. They care about your community like no big box store ever would. Shopping locally lowers fuel costs and keeps money in the local economy.

By Mary McDonald

Mary McDonald is a freelance writer based in Central Massachusetts. After working as a teacher for many years, she now writes about mental health, wellness, and the environment. You can find her on LinkedIn.