Green shopping covers different alternatives to shop for gifts with a lesser negative impact on the planet.
Gifts can mean a lot without costing the Planet:
gifts from the heart, homemade gifts, experiences, donations, or eco gifts / green gifts to help your loved ones help wildlife.
At Christmas time in particular, or at any fair occasion for shopping like birthdays, Valentine’s day (if you’re into that), mother’s day, father’s day, (grandma’s day, grandpa’s day, how many more are there?), Easter etc. some of us are taken by an uncontrollable frenzy of consuming and happy shop-till-you-drop fever.
And some are not.
Some of us are taken instead by the dilemma of not wanting to consume too much and yet, the guilt of not having presents for our loved ones.
Is a happy and eco-friendly Christmas possible?
Does green shopping exist?
First, presents are not an indicator for love: “the more you buy me, the more you love me” and even less a surrogate for love: “I couldn’t spend enough time with you this year but I covered you in expensive gifts”. This is a culture that is promoted by, obviously, retailers and we shouldn’t buy it anymore (haha!).
So in this page, you will find alternative ways of giving, or green shopping, that don’t necessarily include being part of the consumerism culture.
Not all ideas will suit all your loved ones – some might be more or less open to greener, more ethical, homemade, or non-physical gifts. But there is something for absolutely every taste below!
What is exactly consumerism? It’s a culture (or maybe “cult” is a better world?) that encourages us to buy, buy always more, always more often, for always more occasions.
Consumerism is a way to make you feel that:
Sometimes you have to buy only because fashion has changed! There is nothing wrong with the jacket or phone you bought last year, but you are manipulated to think it’s out of fashion and you should get the newer model. Don’t you worry, it is all about manipulation (see below, Planned Obsolescence).
What’s the problem with that, you think (maybe)? Aren’t you just supporting the economy?
The problem with consumerism is that we now consume more than the Earth produces. We also produce more waste than the Earth can absorb.
At the moment, we need one and a half Earth to survive.
That’s, in a nutshell, the problem. We only have one Earth.
Each year, scientists calculate what day we officially have consume all the resources it take the Earth one whole year to produce. This is called “Earth Overshoot Day”. Each year, that day comes earlier in the year 9it's in August currently...).
We consume our limited resources quicker every year.
This is what is called not being sustainable. And a system that is not sustainable is going to crash one day. Any day.
So, we proved that consumerism is actually bad, very bad, for us humans and all the rest of the animals.
Isn't that enough?
As if the fact we consume more than the Earth can produce was not enough, clever (I'm cynical here) humans beings invented planned obsolescence.
It all came from a light bulb, apparently. How ironical – light bulbs are usually synonymous of a real good idea.
Planned obsolescence seems like the worst idea humans ever had. I suppose, there is a lot of competition there...
One day a group of light bulb company CEOs met with a problem: their light bulbs were lasting too many hours, which meant people were not buying them often enough, which meant they were making less money. How terrible.
Then they had this idea: they only needed to make light bulbs of lesser quality!
And planned obsolescence was born.
Some engineer recently said: “The brightest students used to be head hunted to discover how to make things last longer, now the best students are employed to make sure they won’t last too long”.
Do you know that your nice little printer sitting next to your computer right now could have a chip to make it stop working after a certain number of pages printed? If you install a free software from the net to somehow deactivate the chip, your printer starts working again.
Another nice way planned obsolescence works is by having created “fashion”, and advertising relentlessly that you need to keep up with fashion. That way of making people uncomfortable if they wear outdated clothes, drive an old car (but not old enough to be vintage), answer a old design mobile, etc.
So we not only consume more than what the Earth can produce, but we are pushed on purpose to consume even more, because what we buy breaks very quick (and can never, ever be fixed!) or by shaming us, making us feel somehow inadequate when we don’t consume enough.
Strong with this knowledge of Earth depletion and advertising manipulation, we look for alternatives... And we found green shopping!
This green shopping alternative works best with very close loved ones... Children to parents and grand-parents, lovers, best friends, sisters...
This is the simplest gift of all and such a precious one.
You don’t need a lot, a pen and a blank page, or a set of colour pens and a blank page if kids are involved. Obviously if you like craft and have imagination, you can get as fancy as you like!
Just sit down in a relaxing place that you like, or gather the kids around their art and craft table.
Think of the person you love whose birthday or other important occasion is coming, and write.
This is a special gift because very often we don’t say enough to the important persons of our lives that we love them, we admire them, they inspire us, make us brave, happy, make us push our boundaries. That much of what we are and have achieved was thanks to them...
And being loved, respected, admired, is the most powerful feeling in the world. Being told so the greatest gift.
One thing will make you notice that we don’t say enough the positive thoughts we have about the people we love: obituaries.
Have you ever heard a bad obituary? Each and every obituary you can find describe all the great things about that person that was lost. Are only good people dying?
Or is it that you can always find many great things to say about any person, and above all about someone that has a special place in your heart?
Yet we seem to wait till they are no longer here to hear it before we tell them! (Or also, we say it at weddings... Still, it’s only one day in a life!)Take the opportunity of a special day and say it!
If you have a talent, this is the green shopping idea for you!
Painting, drawing, pottery, embroidery, quilt making, knitting, crochet, clothe or jewellery making, pinhole artwork: use what you are good at!
Homemade stuffed animals as a new-baby gift. Toooo cute! Credits: Deb Olive
If you have time and enjoy discovering new ideas and making things yourself, there are millions of websites that take you, step by step, through many very cute looking homemade gifts.
Here are ideas for a few gifts you can make yourself:
In a nice glass jar, lay out the exact amount of flour, sugar, choc chips, walnuts, oats etc. Print the cookie recipe and glue it at the back. You can also put the ingredients in a brown paper bag and decorate with ribbons etc.
Cookies, shortbread, savoury twists, chocolate, caramels, toffee, marzipan animals, Christmas pudding, jams, relish - anything that keeps a little! Put it in a nice homemade paper bag or box, decorate with homemade tags and ribbons.
Make marzipan animals and other figurines and offer them on a plate or in a box, a winner activity for the kids too!
As for the cookie mix, but mix the ingredients in a nice glass jar instead of layering them.
There are lots of recipes available (always with a base of high quality fair trade cocoa and brown sugar), some of which involving chunk of real chocolate, cinnamon and small marshmallows!
Homemade gifts: homemade hair clips (including popcorn, colour pens, dried lemon rings), homemade rings (felt and beads) and homemade necklaces (felt, melted metal and beads)...
But really, just do a quick internet search and you will find millions of ideas, some very simple and many really good looking.
An added benefit of homemade gifts is that you can personalise your gift!
Also, many ideas you can involve your kids to create the gift, which means a fun family activity!
PS: If you think you have too little talent for the ideas above, there are still things you can make such as a book of pictures of shared memories or a CD of favourite songs.
My favourite Christmas gift from a special friend this year! Homemade shortbread - it did help that they were the best shortbread I had ever ate!
These are very exciting gifts!
Use this green shopping alternative if you think a homemade gift
sounds too “cheap”, if you don’t feel gifted enough or if your loved one is
hard to please.
Here are just some ideas for cool experience gifts:
- whale watching on a boat,
- visit to the local wildlife sanctuary,
If you visit the local sanctuary, you are directly supporting the rescue, care and release of wildlife. That’s a double winner!
- trip to the local National Park,
- or for a big special
Whale watching for humpback whales: two curious whale coming to the boat and doing some "people watching":...
And a very personal, lovely green shopping idea: make little cards with things you will do with your loved ones in the next few months:
This is maybe the most extreme / unusual alternative of green shopping.
Reserve it for loved ones with an open mind and a cause they really care for, for ones that have absolutely everything they want and tell you so over and over again, or ones that are quite home buddies and you can’t picture at a concert or bungee-jumping...
Then there is a whole series of gift cards that you can give to a person as a token for making the world a better place.
If you want your gift to directly help wildlife, choose the good action to be wildlife focused:
Oxfam has very cute and humorous gift cards, which help you support great causes and offer clean water, literacy class, women shelters, orphanages, or even pigs, cows, chickens and goats to people all around the world!
More simply, you can make a donation to any cause you know the loved person cares about. (Wildlife protection for instance!!!)
Then write a nice birthday card and add a little handmade receipt such as “In the honour of your birthday, I increased tigers’ protection” or the gift card send by the non-for-profit organisations if they provided one.
For kids, you can also adopt an animal in danger: give money to a non-for-profit organisation to support their actions for one wild species. You can opt for an organisation that sends a soft toy of the animal you help protect, along with some information.
The WWF has lots of animals to adopt, and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International offers adoption packages for gorillas that live in the wild, from babies to mum and silver backs: adopt them and follow their adventure in the wild!
This is probably a very under used green shopping idea, maybe because people feel a second-hand item doesn't make for a nice gift?
Don’t think second-hand only means old things no one wants anymore... There are very fancy vintage, antiques and collectable second-hand shops!
If you find pre-loved gifts, that means:
Also, supporting your local second-hand shop is giving back to your community and sometimes to a good cause too – good actions that do not directly benefit wildlife but can have rippling effects.
If actresses buy second-hand, surely no one can say it's not a fashionable gift!
If you are after a brand new physical gift, there is still hope!
This green shopping idea allows you to buy a gift that will decrease your loved one’s impact on the Planet, and make him / her more environmentally friendly!
The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss
A few ideas:
The Copenhagen Wheel stores the energy when you brake and give it back to you when you start getting tired! Too cool!
An alternative is to get a year subscription to a nice Nature magazine.
You still haven't find the perfect eco friendly gift?
You can turn to simply nice green gifts - don't miss the opportunity to share why this eco-consciousness is important for wildlife:
(Because it's important to recycle.)
(Protects pristine forests.)
(Batteries are highly polluting.)
(A lot of candles are made with unsustainable palm oil.)
You have given a double gift: a present and knowledge!
Finally, you can find a large variety of gifts that support your favourite conservation organisation and favourite endangered animal: from soap to clothing, blankets to bags, water bottles to stuffed animals, jewelery to books and CDs...
Just head out to your favorite non-for-profit organisation and browse their online shop.
You get the idea...
This green shopping idea is perfect for the sophisticated loved ones of your life, and their love for beautiful and unique objects.
Buying local is always better as it creates less pollution by transport – think of where most of the goods you had below last year’s Christmas tree came from.... China? Bangladesh?
Buying from local artists and craftspersons also mean you are supporting your local community – that’s always nice – and creativity. These things might not directly help wildlife but may make the world a slightly better place, which can have ripple effects.
Some Artworks – often focusing on the beauty of Nature and wild animals – even contribute to wildlife protection directly by giving part of the profit to preserve our wilderness.
For example, Lucy Trippett’s pictures!
Lucy Trippett's Art
Use this green shopping alternative for the sweet tooth and food lovers of your life...
Obviously the more the food you offer is local, organic and homemade the greener your gift will be!
Good food is a better option for a an eco gift because we all need to eat, and if you pick your gifts well you can support local growers, small local businesses, organic or fair trade.
Locally made hamper by the Straddie Sister. Yummy!
Look for fancy food that your loved one might not by themselves:
An easy way of making this gift happen is to simply go to your closer organic / health food store and to collect some of the delicious food available. Put it all in a nice basket or a card box (decorated by yourself!) and you are done!
Baskets of treats work actually very well for baby showers too: something nice to spoil the mum to be!
Now that you are proud of your green shopping, don't spoil it by buying a new gift wrap!
You can wrap all your gift with craft paper, last year wrappers, recycled material or reusable gift bags.
Add a nice flower from your garden for a bit of fanciness!
Finally, you should also make a nice crafted card to go with your homemade gift!
We all love the act of giving – it’s a gift to us as much as to our loved ones.
Yet with so much of the Earth resources and energy consumed, and so much pollution and waste a by-product of our goods, we need to find ways to more sustainable gifts.
And along the way we might found that eco friendly gifts, made of love and experiences or triggering way-of-life changes, can also enrich our lives more than plain consumerism.