Saturday, December 3, 2011

It’s the holiday season!

Everyone is busy with shopping, finding great deals, choosing just the right gifts, and running around being Santa Clauses. There are so many ways that we can be green while shopping, wrapping, and getting ready for the Christmas season.
Here are some tips on how to have a sane and green shopping experience (Adapted from an article by Dan Shipley from

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.

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 will help you avoid toxic toys. Using resources like these are important, since marketing claims are often misleading.

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. Many sites channel a portion of the money to your designated charity. 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.

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.

6. Use Online Coupons
Several sites make finding coupons for green gifts easy. Check Ecobunga, Pristine Planet and for deals on sustainable, organic and Fair Trade products.

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.

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!

The Christmas season is one of the most waste-creating occasions of the year. Here are some tips on how to reduce the amount of packaging and trash, reuse certain items and materials, and recycle everything else:

· Use fabric and yarn for gift-wrapping. These materials add pizzazz to the present in addition to being eco-friendly, durable, and reusable.

· Use bags and tissue paper for your presents. They are not as eco-friendly as fabric and yarn but are reusable nevertheless.

· Avoid using tons of gift wrap paper and excessive ribbons. Be careful when unwrapping these presents so the wrap, ribbons, and flowers may be reused.

Other tips:
· Don’t leave on your Christmas lights 24/7. Try to set the lights to have automatic timers that will turn them off and on at specific times. This can save so much energy!

· Look for a “green” tree. Artificial trees are actually quite damaging to the environment as they are usually made in China and require great amounts of pollutants to be emitted to be created. However, using fresh Christmas trees perhaps requires annual trips to load them back and forth and can wither easily.

· Choose incredible and unique green gifts under $20! You can easily find items made by independent artisans and made from natural materials without the usual loads of packaging and trash. Making your gifts from objects around the house is awesome as well!

Enjoy your holidays, everyone!


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