Green Gift Giving 101: Eco-Friendly Shopping for Dummies
*This article may contain links to our partners*
Not sure how to approach gift giving with a greener state of mind? Let us help! We’re going share some green tips, ideas, and strategies for picking winning gifts without getting greenwashed. Let’s start with the following rules of thumb:
Avoid replacing things that are already safe, efficient, and in good condition. Even if there is a new, awesome, even more eco-friendly product that has just come onto the market, wait. One of the biggest tricks to being eco-friendly is to keep using what you have it until it is worn out. One of the major problems that threatens our environment is the over consumption (and disposal) of low-quality, poorly constructed products. We buy, use for a little while, get bored of it/it falls apart, it gets binned, we buy again. With almost 8 billion people on the planet, you can see why so much ends up in landfills.
Do not buy it just to buy it. If the recipient doesn’t need it, want it, or won’t benefit from it - just don’t. It will only end up being discarded or stored in a closet for 8 years purely out of guilt (we’ve all been there!). With any gift giving, do your best to be intentional; find something that is meaningful, personal, or even just useful.
Keeping those "rules" in mind should help a lot when trying to figure out which gift to choose, but just in case you want to dive deeper, we have 10 more tips for you below...
Buy secondhand. We know it’s crazy, but stick with us here. Have you ever wondered why antiques and vintage goods are considered high class purchases, while thrifting and gifting is looked down upon? Food for thought there. We need to normalize the idea that hand-me-downs can, and should, breathe new life if they are still in good condition. There is no reason they can’t make great gifts, especially when it comes to household items, easy to clean toys (you can also join a Toy Library!), and things you can upcycle yourself. If you’re still having trouble wrapping your head around this idea, ask yourself this – does the fact that something is new and in packaging make it more enjoyable or special to the recipient? Odds are, the answer will be no.
Made-By-You. If you fancy yourself a creative, there is no end to what you can whip up. From jewelry to jams, taking the time to make something special will really brighten your loved one’s day. Remember, it doesn’t have to be expensive to be valuable. Let that sink in. And while you do, head over to Pinterest to gather some inspiration for your DIY gift.
Recycled and upcycled creations. You can find everything; water-resistant fanny packs made from recycled bike tires, lunch bags made from recycled bottle textiles, backpacks made from salvaged agricultural bags, and beautifully crafted, high-end purses made completely from leftover leather scraps from the fashion industry.
When researching your options, try to buy from a company whose whole mission revolves around sustainable and recycled products. This keeps you far away from the companies that are only developing green products for the kudos not the care.
Contemplate the composition. A material is considered sustainable if its production can be maintained with the same method for a long time without causing harm to the ecosystem. We know that plastic is generally something to avoid, and the good news is there are a lot of alternatives nowadays; the hard part is knowing how helpful they really are.
If it can break down to become soil, it is a better option. Things made from woods, grasses, cotton – literally anything that comes from the ground, are usually a safe bet. Bonuses for locally sourced, organic, and responsibly farmed materials! Local is always better because of emissions, so rather than buying that bamboo toothbrush shipped from China, see if there are any companies that work with local farms to source their bamboo, or companies that use FSC (Forestry stewardship council) rated wood products that are sourced closer to you. It's not always possible, but it is always worth a look. Also consider the amount of processing the product has had to undergo to become what it is. More processing generally means more emissions to create it. Side note: “poly” in a material or ingredient is usually just a sneaky word for plastic. Though there are a few exceptions, try to avoid “poly” materials where possible.
Buy from small businesses!! We can’t stress this enough. At Love the Earth Co, we know that you don’t have to be a big wig to come up with big ideas. That’s why we stock products from eco-minded businesses of all sizes. Some of the greatest innovations come from people who care deeply about certain topic, in this case, the environment. Some of our partners have created some really impressive products, like these BPA free toys made from 100% recycled plastic, these adorable non-toxic nail polishes for kids, and these homemade, bee inspired body and beauty products. Extra bonus if you find a local small business to support. They may not be able to offer you next day delivery, but they will provide with products that they are truly proud to make.
Shop cruelty free. Products that are cruelty free have NEVER been tested on animals, nor have the ingredients they source to make their products. Why is this important? Putting aside the whole “humane” and "animal welfare" argument (an argument we feel is critical), companies that test on animals literally create and sustain life that will eventually be disposed of. This amount of energy, water, and emissions created to raise and discard these test subjects over a short amount of time is immense. You can check to see if a product you are considering is cruelty free by looking for a leaping bunny logo, or by searching for the product here Note: it can be expensive for businesses to submit an application for this certification. For smaller businesses, check out the FAQs on their website to see if their practices are in line with the criteria to be cruelty free. Also consider it a major red flag if a larger company is not Leaping Bunny rated – this most likely means they are trying to greenwash you (that whole “I’ll do a little good, but not a lot” thing). We are proud to say that every single product we stock at Love the Earth Co. is cruelty free at a minimum!
Get personal. What do you get the child/person who has everything? Increase your impact by personalizing a gift for the recipient. We recently had some personalized educational/inspiring books by Wonderbly made for our nieces and nephew, where they get to be the star in their own book! We loved the motivating messaging, and the fact that their books are printed locally on FSC rated paper is a bonus. There are a million ways to make something personalized for your loved ones, whether it be selecting a plant box subscription to suit their lifestyle, or assembling their favorite scents for the perfect gift box.
Treat them to an experience. Memories last longer than most things, so why not explore activities in your loved one’s area? Gift cards to restaurants, spas, or unique experiences are always a hit, and by purchasing from local small businesses, you’ll be supporting their economy as well. It’s a double deal!
Responsible retail. We are back to the greenwashing again! There are plenty of companies around that are making efforts to include environmentally friendly policies wherever they can. This can be achieved by producing in facilities that use only (or mostly) renewable energies, revising their packaging to be as “zero-waste” as possible, creating products from “waste”, and changing their ingredients/materials lists to include ONLY elements that cause no harm to our air, soil and water. Everything you find on Love the Earth Co. ticks one or more of these boxes, like Grandpa's Soap or Runamok Maple. Most of our partners are B Corp Certified, and also donate regularly to social causes around the globe. Some, like Newman's Own give 100% of their profits to charity. That’s pretty awesome!
Be extra aware during the holidays. Every year between Thanksgiving in Christmas, Americans add to their typical waste by 25%. Some of this waste comes from food, but a lot of it comes from unwanted gifts and packaging. So what to do?
Organize a group exchange with friends, co-workers, and even family members, rather than getting everyone their own little gift. This makes for much less waste, and you can spend your money on a high quality gift that someone will actually want.
When it comes to food, prepare for leftovers by researching recipes for remaining ingredients the next day. If you anticipate the task, you are more likely to carry it out, leading to far less food waste (side note: please compost when you can!)
If you are a family that can’t live without Christmas crackers, choose ones that either have very high quality, useful gifts inside, or find crackers that are filled only with paper products like hats and jokes. Let’s be honest – no one needs a teeny tiny set of playing cards.
Suggestions for gift wrap and cards:
- Say no to glitter and shiny stuff. It may be fun, but it is very dangerous plastic. If you must use glitter, make it natural and biodegradable, plant-based BioGlitter
- Try to find wrapping paper and greeting cards that are made from recycled paper, reuse old newspaper, or decorate your own using recycled kraft paper.
- Use reusable fabrics to adorn your gifts.
- Consider switching to e-cards for at least some of your holiday’s greetings.
We know that is a lot to consider, and no one is expecting you to be able to follow these tips all at once. At Love the Earth Co., we make it easy for you to find eco-friendly products you can rely on, all while supporting responsible businesses, big and small. We welcome you to browse our site, especially our gift section, where we have bundled together some amazing products that all adhere to the tips above. We hope to see you soon. Happy shopping!