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Feel-Good Shifts for Holiday Sustainability

It is easy to say “don’t buy stuff.”

That's much harder to do in practice when we don’t want to disappoint our loved ones - or ourselves.

So, how about these shifts instead:

  • Shop local

    • This is a little bit of a sneaky way of also saying, “buy less.” Clicking away online - and having “often bought together” suggested to us - makes it all too easy to buy more than we really intend or want.

    • Buying local also usually means supporting small- and medium-sized businesses, who drive most of our economic growth. More financial equity leads to better climate outcomes. More on that in the next two points…

  • Support BIPOC-owned businesses

    • Working for racial justice is not just good, it is good for the environment. Read Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson’s OpEd for a more eloquent explanation than I can give. But, to get your interest: Black and Latinx people are more concerned about climate change than White people (source) (which makes some sense since they are also more affected). If Black and Latinx people had more time to work on climate change - rather than fighting for basic issues of equity (safety, health, education, etc.) - we’d have a lot more brains working to stop climate change.

    • Find curated lists of Black-owned brands at or follow them on social media to get the updated lists as they come out.

  • Boost women-owned businesses

    • Working to increase gender equality is listed by Project Drawdown as the #2 thing (#2!) that we can do to reduce emissions. Dr. Katharine Wilkinson has a great Ted Talk explaining why this is so.

  • Give experiences and/or things you know the recipient wants

    • An experience creates lasting memories, not lasting waste.

    • While it's fun to be a gift-giving hero by coming up with that perfect "I didn't even know I needed it" gift, getting items that you know people want and will use is a great way to be an environmental hero.

  • Seed environmentalism with your gifts

    • Some of my favorite environmentally friendly products are at the bottom of the resource page. These items may not be glamorous, but they may also make someone happy!

    • (Be wary of “greenwashing,” which is when companies use an “environmentally friendly” claim for marketing. Question whether the claim is valid or if it is only driving more consumption.)

  • Be an example

    • Research shows that behavior change is most likely to happen when we witness family and friends behaving differently - not from “liking” a social media post or watching a documentary. So, don’t underestimate that impact you’re having just by making some intentional choices in how you celebrate and consume. Without you doing anything else, your family and friends may start to adopt some of your actions.

  • Keep (or start) doing everyday things

    • Reduce food waste. Reducing food waste is the #1 thing on Project Drawdown’s list that we can do to reduce our carbon footprint. Love Your Food has lots of great ideas.

    • Reuse gift bags and the tissue paper stuffed inside those bags.

    • Use reusable plates and cutlery for gatherings, rather than plastic or paper.

    • Bring reusable shopping bags (even though I know it is so easy to forget them at home!).

    • When storing holiday cookies and leftovers, use reusable food containers, rather than cling wrap or disposable plastic bags. (Some of my favorites can be found at the bottom of this page.)


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