Go Green This Holiday Season
By Brianna Forte
Editor’s Note: Our Turtle House Gift Shop, at 111 S. Miramar Ave. in Indialantic, will be open Christmas Eve (Dec. 24, 2020) from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for your last-minute holiday shopping needs. STPS also offers online shopping on our website.
After an incredibly long year in 2020 with lots of surprising challenges, the excitement of the holiday season is palpable. The act of giving gifts provides people with a reason to smile, even when it has been such a tough year. What is even better than finding the perfect gift for a family member or friend is finding that gift while helping the environment by practicing sustainable shopping and gifting. The Sea Turtle Preservation Society presents a simple guide on how to shop green, ideas for sustainable gifts for your fellow earth enthusiasts, and creative and sustainable solutions for wrapping and packaging your gifts.
The first step to shopping sustainably this holiday season is to try and avoid online shopping. Although online shopping may feel like the easier option since all it requires is a couple of button clicks, the downside is that it produces a significantly higher amount of carbon emissions. According to a Scientific American article, these online shipments are delivered via transport trucks powered by fossil fuels and results in excessive amounts of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere.
Two main alternatives to shopping online can meet your needs. One is to simply shop local. When you choose to shop local you are eliminating the carbon footprint that would have been required to transport the online orders across the country. According to an article in the Illinois Times, local businesses tend to buy their supplies from other local businesses, which cuts down on shipping and benefits the environment. As always, when you go shopping try and bring a reusable bag or tote to avoid using any plastic bags. In addition to helping the environment, when you choose to shop local you’re helping your local community’s economy!
The second alternative is to get crafty and create some handmade gifts for your friends and families. Not only are handmade gifts amazing because you are creating something truly unique made specifically for one person, but you also have the ability to repurpose material around your house and recycle things into art or something useful. Some sustainable and cute craft ideas include crocheting reusable bags out of yarn made from plastic bags, painting old glass or plastic food containers and adding plant propagations or flowers, or creating your own reusable beeswax wrap. If none of those ideas spark your creative flame, try scanning through this list of 101 Green Handmade Gift Tutorials. The possibilities for handmade gifts are endless, and your love for the environment and the person receiving the gift will be evident through the creativity and time invested in each creation.
If you do not feel comfortable shopping in person or do not have faith in your own creative talents fear not, you can still buy gifts online while remaining sustainable. The most important step in shopping sustainably online is by shopping through websites that feature brands that are ethically and sustainably created. This list of 14 sustainable stores is a great place to start looking for ethical online shopping outlets. EarthHero, Brightly, and Made Trade are all online home stores that provide options for sustainably sourced clothing, zero waste products, home and furniture products, reusable beauty and care products, toys, and so much more.
When ordering through these online stores, try to purchase things through the same website instead of buying small orders from multiple different websites. This is because when you buy a bulk order from one website you are reducing the carbon footprint required to deliver your order, as it will all be shipped in one package instead of requiring many different trucks to deliver your products from different companies. To further optimize your shipping options, order products at the same time so they come in one delivery and package, choose no rush shipping so that trucks do not have to make deliveries at half capacity in order to fulfil the expedited shipping standards, and, if it is offered, you should choose to pick up items from a centralized location to prevent delivery trucks from having to drive excess miles to get to people’s addresses.
Now that we have gone over the methods of how to sustainably shop for gifts, it’s time to provide some simple ideas for sustainable gifts. Since the introduction of single use plastic to society, our oceans have greatly suffered from plastic pollution. According to the World Wildlife Fund, plastic is especially damaging for sea turtles and it is estimated that 52 percent of the global sea turtle population has ingested plastic. Gifting a sea turtle lover with single-use plastic alternatives not only helps them create a more sustainable lifestyle, but it directly decreases the amount of pollution during the manufacturing process and helps reduce the plastic burden on landfills, oceans, and streams.
Gifts that help reduce plastic consumption include reusable products and sustainable alternatives. Some reusable products include reusable straws and silverware on FinalStraw, reusable bags and totes, and reusable bottles. A lot of toiletries such as toothbrushes, razors, floss, shampoo and conditioner, body wash, and deodorant all typically use plastic. Perfect gifts for your conservation comrade include bamboo toothbrushes and Bite toothpaste tabletes, refillable floss and deodorant available through By Humankind, shampoo and conditioner bars, and metal razors such as Eco Roots that come with replaceable blades. To avoid waste in the kitchen, consider reusable bowl covers to replace saran wrap and aluminum foil, beeswax wrap to replace plastic wrap, paperless towels that can be rewashed, silicone food bags to replace plastic bags, glass meal prep containers, and reusable sponge cloths. If you are still looking for ideas, I recommend reading through this extensive list which covers everything from coffee to toys to books.
In addition to all the gifts that will help your friends and family on toward a more sustainable lifestyle, there are other gift ideas that are still sustainable. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation suggests finding gift items at nearby farmers markets, craft fairs, nurseries, and locally-owned stores that are made with recycled content and are locally produced, organic, and/or fair-trade. Purchasing used gifts (such as vintage or used clothing, books, CDs, DVDs, tools, cameras, toys, and musical instruments) or gifts that are long lasting or can be reused and recycled later are both great ideas that maintain a sustainable focus. Another idea for sustainable gifts is to avoid buying products that might not be fully appreciated, and instead gift intangible ideas. For example, you could provide the gift of an experience (like going to a museum or movie) or giving a certificate promising your time and talents (like doing the laundry or helping move furniture) or donating to a non-profit organization dedicated to conservation in the name of your loved one.
Once you’ve finally decided on what sustainable gift you are going to give this year, of course you are going to want to make it a pretty package to show the amount of love and time you put into the gift. Unfortunately, as beautiful as shiny Santa wrapping paper is, it contributes to a huge portion of the holiday waste. According to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the extra waste around the holiday season results in about 25 million tons of garbage or about 1 million extra tons per week.
In order to reduce your contribution to the waste generated, reconsider how to package gifts. First, you can get creative by repurposing any old newspapers, paper bags, or magazines lying around as wrapping paper. You can even include part of your gift in the wrapping itself by using scarves, blankets, or towels as wrapping paper. Try saving gift bags, boxes, and tissue paper so you can give gifts year after year reusing the same materials. If wrapping is simply too much effort, you can also just eliminate wrapping entirely. If the gift comes in a box, you can just pop a bow on top. You can also try creating gift baskets and replacing the basket with large items relating to the rest of the gifts (ie. stuff a flower pot with gardening supplies and seeds or place cooking utensils in a mixing bowl).
This is by no means a completely comprehensive guide to sustainable gifting, but it’s definitely a place to start this holiday season. So let’s be sustainable and simultaneously spread smiles to end the year of 2020!