5 Ways To Shop Sustainably This Holiday Season
I remember the first time the holidays came around after I had transitioned to living (and shopping) more sustainably and I felt so unbelievably overwhelmed. How was I going to navigate the most shopping centric time of the year sustainably when everything around me seemed to be so — unsustainable.
While I absolutely felt uncomfortable going into that holiday season (this was more because I didn’t want to disappoint anyone with my gifts), I knew that it was also a really wonderful opportunity for me to show my friends and family just how special sustainable/ethical/handmade gifts can be.
Overtime, my family had gotten into the habit of everyone just telling each other exactly what we wanted and then someone would go buy it for them. While yes we all would get what we “wanted” it also took a lot of the thought out of the reason we give gifts in the first place. But guess what? That Christmas every single member in my family told me how thoughtful and special they felt my gifts were, and how next year they wanted to try and emulate them as well.
behavior change is hard
While today I want to address some of the ways that I was able to transition to shopping sustainably during the holidays, I think it is important to talk about the bigger elephant in the room which isn’t necessarily the items we are purchasing (sustainable or not) but how much.
Sometimes I think that what the sustainability movement gets wrong is that it seems to make it impossible for people to continue with traditions that they love, and giving gifts at Christmas is a tradition I love. While yes the most sustainable option most likely would be to give nothing at all, I personally do not think that is the answer — or even addressing the real issue. The real issue comes down to our daily choices, and the excess we choose to partake in on a daily basis, which just gets amplified during the holidays.
Our culture has become completely and entirely overwhelmed by excessive consumerism, which does include the sustainability community. And while it is so important that more consumer based companies are beginning to value and prioritize public health and the environment in the production of their consumer products, the issue still remains that even sustainably made items bought in excess will and are still contributing to our excessive waste.
With this in mind, I hope that rather than solely focusing on what you are buying this holiday season, you can also transition your shopping habits to focus on how much. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, behavior change is THE KEY to the sustainability movement. Without it we aren’t really addressing the root of the problem, just making the root a little more ethical.
5 Ways To Shop Sustainably This Holiday Season
Opt For An Experience
I love giving and receiving experiences, in fact it is really the only thing my husband and I "gift" each other these days. The best part about gifting experiences too is that they are one of the few gifts you can give that comes along with a side of wonderful memories and relaxation.
Here are some ideas for experiences that are pretty much guaranteed to be a hit:
Weekend Stay In The City/Country
Exclusive Restaurant Gift Certificate
Tickets To The Theater
And if you want to take your experience based gift a step further there are some pretty exciting tools to help you offset your travel related carbon footprint. Carbon Fund is my favorite resource which allows you to enter your travel information, calculate your emissions, and purchase a tax deductible donation to offset your carbon footprint and support industry-leading carbon reduction projects.
Many airlines are also starting to create their own carbon offset programs like Delta, Quantas, Emirates, and many more. So if you plan to gift an experience that includes travel this holiday season, you may also want to think about purchasing carbon offset’s to make the gift that much better for the environment.
Choose Sustainable Clothing And Textiles
Clothing may be the most popular gift to give and receive around the holidays, which to me means that there is an incredible opportunity around the holidays to impact the way people think about their fashion.
When thinking about choosing a sustainable clothing company I always recommend looking into the types of textiles they are using, their sustainability mission, ethical standards, and if they are opting to use recycled materials. Good On You and Done Good are great resources to find sustainable clothing brands to replace your old fast fashion favorites, and I have many resources that list some of my favorite sustainable brands as well.
One sustainable clothing company in-particular that I have been blown away by lately is tentree , who not only creates beautifully designed clothes, but also works to combate deforestation issues around the world by planting ten trees (hence the name) for every purchase made. At this time tentree has planted more than 24 million trees and is working in 6 different countries.
One of my favorite parts of their reforestation program though is how they help consumers connect with the impact they are making. tentree does this by attaching a coin with a "treecode" to each article of clothing. That coin then allows you to register your article of clothing and choose your own impact. So often I find that social impact companies somewhat drop the ball on how they follow-up on connecting consumers with their personal impact, and this is something tentree does incredibly well.
In addition to their incredible reforestation efforts, tentree has opted to upcycle polyester materials to help elliminate some of the preventable textile waste that is reaching landfills. They also only source organic cotton and other natural materials like by-product from coconut shells for their buttons. When it comes to tentree clothing, no detail has been spared when it comes to producing the most sustainable, ethical, and functional item of clothing possible.
These standards, while also remaining at an affordable price point, are almost unparalleled in the sustainable clothing industry, and really do separate tentree as a trail blazer.
ten tree was also incredibly generous and has offered 20% off everything on their site to my readers. Simply use the code THEWELLESSENTIALS20 at checkout to recieve 20% off throughout the entire month of November. This truly is an incredible discount for a sustainable clothing company, so if you think some of their clothing items would make nice gifts I would definetely take advantage of this discount code.
Look For Lifetime Guarantees
This is such an overlooked aspect to shopping sustainably, but in-general companies who offer lifetime guarantees are going to have an invested interest in making sure that their products do not need to be replaced frequently.
Choosing a company who offers a lifetime guarantee is a great way to help you feel more comfortable in the quality of the item you are choosing to purchase (especially if you are gifting it). Overtime investing in products that were built to last a lifetime is an amazing way to reduce your total consumer waste and helps break the cycle of impulse/cheap purchases.
Be Original With Vintage & Antiques
It really doesn't get more sustainable than shopping for vintage and antique pieces, and it is such a misconception that gifts around the holidays have to be brand spanking new. One of my favorite gifts I ever gave with an antique and rare cast-iron pan to my Dad that he absolutely loves and uses all the time today.
Vintage/Antique shopping can also be a fun escape from all the online and mall shopping that goes on during the holiday season, and there really isn’t anything I love more then hitting up some antique stores with holiday music playing in the background, and a hot cup of hot chocolate in my hand.
If you know someone in your life who loves antiques/vintage you pretty much can’t go wrong with functional pieces like small vintage rugs, kitchen items, and vases that can be used for many purposes.
Give The Gift Of Plants!
So many people absolutely LOVE plants, and they truly are the gift that keeps on giving. They help clean the air around us, have been found to make indoor spaces more enjoyable, and can even improve peoples overall happiness.
My goal in life is to pretty much turn our home into a workable, live-able, jungle oasis so if I received some plants for the holidays I would jump up and down with excitement.
If you’re not sure how much light your friend/family member gets in their house opt for a low-key plant to gift like succulents, or cacti that don’t require a ton of attention, sun, or water and make great gifts.
Above I’m wearing the Fernie Long Sleeve from ten tree which is made from TENCEL™ Lyocell, a fiber that is made from eucalyptus trees, which require no pesticides or insecticides, and need 1/5th of the land to make the same amount of fabric as cotton, making it an incredibly innovative textile and alternative to the cotton industry.
With these tips in mind I hope you are able to feel less overwhelmed with the idea of shopping sustainably for the holidays. I truly believe that by thinking a little more creatively and challenging your usual shopping habits you can make this holiday one that is filled with so much more thought, and gifts that your friends and family are sure to love.
Disclaimer: This post was part of a brand ambassador partnership with tentree for the holiday season. As always all opinions are my own and I thank you for supporting the amazing companies who support The Well Essentials.