Sustainable Shopping Guide- Holiday Edition

Whether you want to admit it or not, the holidays are just around the corner.  This starts with the blood thirsty frenzy of Black Friday- a sustainable minded/introverted/semi-minimalist's waking nightmare.  Then present purchasing is in full swing.  Unless you are a dork like me and have already started because I like thinking ahead and budgeting my money in advance.  

How many gifts have you received that go unused, thrown away, or stuck in your basement or in the back of the closet?  Gifts we give and receive are well intentioned, but let's stop buying just for thee sake of buying.  Let's apply the principles of conscious convenience to this holiday season!  

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash


Before you add 50 items to your Amazon Prime cart, my goal is for you to have a little niggling voice in the back of your head asking, "How is this purchase affecting the planet?  Does the recipient really need it or want it?  Is there a greener option?  Can I buy it second hand?  Can I get it locally?  Should I buy a Buzzy Body Goodie box for my friend?"  Shameless plug.  The answer is yes, you should buy a Buzzy Body Goodie box for your friend.  Now that that's settled, let's get back to the shopping guide.  

There are so many businesses now with eco-friendliness and ethics at the forefront of their values, and it's so cool to see.  Let's vote with our dollars this holiday season to show them that we value the goods and services they are providing, plus it's good for the Earth, too!  

 Shop Locally

I know it's easy to default to online shopping because you can sit in your underwear with a cat on your lap and eat Hippeas and drink a turmeric latte, but get out there and support your local businesses!  This not only cuts down on emissions from shipping multiple items, but you are supporting a small business, where your dollar makes a VERY big difference in the life of the person who owns it.  It's something we don't stop to think about very often, but is your $100 better spent at Amazon where the CEO is the richest person in the world, or to your neighborhood candle shop where your dollars help put food on their table, add diversity and charm to your neighborhood, and aid in the payment of vet bills for their sick dog who just ate half of a gardenia scented soy candle and spewed diarrhea all over their carpet?  Re-invest in your neighborhood and the dreams of your neighbors by shopping local!  I know not shopping on Amazon seems almost impossible today, so try this little hack- go to when you shop on Amazon and you can choose a charity of your choice.  Each order you make, the charity will receive a small contribution.  My charity is The Nature Conservancy!  

If you want to check out an awesome local holiday event in Cincinnati and get a head start on your shopping, check out The Crafty Supermarket at Music Hall on Nov. 30th and Dec. 1st.  Local vendors come together to sell their creative wares.  I always find something good!  (usually for myself, oops!)

Some of my favorite local Cincinnati stores for gifts: RedTree Gallery in Oakley, Manitou Candle Company in Columbia Tusculum, Kismet in O'Bryonville, Nest in Hyde Park, MiCa 12/V in OTR, Katie's Blooms in Newtown, and High Street downtown.  

Support Small Businesses and Artisans

Besides supporting small businesses in your own community, you can also extend your shopping to around the country and even the world. 

I love shopping on Etsy because the options are endless.  From handmade jewelry to vintage comic books to one of a kind upcycled t-shirts, you can find it all.  I love these cards that are infused with wildflowers so the recipient can plant them after the occasion!  So cute!  Etsy also has pre-curated gift guides you can check out or you can search to your heart's content.  See you in 3 hours when you come up for air.  

The other website I love is Uncommon Goods.  Similar to Etsy, this website is basically a giant, online craft show.  They connect artists and creatives with customers they wouldn't normally meet face to face.  They have such a great selection of unique gifts.  If you are stumped on an idea, start browsing!  

Purchase Second Hand

Give your family and friends a heads up that you are doing sustainably themed shopping this year.  Maybe you could afford that nice thing they want if you purchase it gently used?  Anything from phones, clothing, furniture, housewares, shoes, you name it- you can probably find it being resold.  


NextDoor:  This website is for your local neighborhood only.  Stay in the know about what's going on in your 'hood and take advantage of the things for sale.  You might only have to walk around the corner to get it!  

Facebook Marketplace:  As you mindlessly scroll your friends' recent baby photos, click over to the Marketplace tab where you can find things for sale in your area. 

Ebay: If you haven't heard of Ebay, go crawl back under your rock, Patrick Star.   

ThriftBooks: This website is a treasure trove for used books for the book lover of all ages.  

ThredUp: I have talked about this website before because I am obsessed, but it's the internet's largest online consignment shop.  Get those Lulu pants for a steal! They also have purses, shoes, and kids clothes.  

Poshmark: Another awesome website where people sell clothing, shoes, purses and accessories.  


OfferUp and LetGo are resale apps that you can search by your zip code.  Literally anything and everything is for sale!  


Play It Again Sports: Sells gently used sporting equipment and gear.

Half Price Books: Hunt for like new books, CD's movies, and other gift ideas.

Once Upon A Child: Kids use and abuse and go through toys and clothes so quickly.  Check out this resale shop for children's gear- toys, clothing, shoes, and more! 

Spend Money with Eco-Conscious Retailers

If you want to buy something new, maybe check out some online retailers who have sustainability in mind- from carbon offset shipping to selling products that have been made with recycled materials, there are many ways that businesses are going green.  

Earth Hero:  I have mentioned this website before because they are so great.  Their slogan is "Choices Make Changes".  Obsessed.  They do all the research on eco-friendly companies and products so you can rest assured what your buying is made with the planet in mind.  They have a large array of products from tech, to home, to clothing.  I have my eye on a pair of vegan leather sneakers that would look real fresh.  Use code chelsea10 for 10% off!  (I do receive a small commission if you use my code.  Don't hate, I have an obese cat to feed).  

BuyMeOnce: The mission of this website is badass.  They research, test, and sell the longest lasting and most sustainable products in the world.  With a plethora of categories, you're sure to find a thoughtful, well made gift that will last years and years.  I love this Duluth Scout Pack- the perfect size backpack for traveling, hiking, or commuting around town.  As Buy Me Once focuses on longevity of it's items, this backpack has a lifetime guarantee.  

There are great sustainable activewear and basics brands out now like Pact, Athleta, Patagonia, Threads4Thought, PrAna, and many others.  Do some digging, you might find ones I don't even know about!  

Even more ideas!  Check out this list from The Good Trade for 14 Curated Ships for Ethical & Sustainable Gift Shopping. 


Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash

 Give the Gift of an Experience

I love doing this!  Instead of a physical gift, could you maybe find concert tickets, take a road trip, plan a vacation, curate a special day, go see a musical, go zip lining, take an art class?  Anything to spend time doing something new together with a person you love.  That way, you are not only making new memories, but you are spending quality time with the person- the most important gift of all! 

Another way to give an experience is to donate to a charity in the recipient's name. Does your mom have a charity that is close to her heart?  Is she obsessed with elephants or puppies?  Sponsor an animal and buy them presents from the organization's wish list.  Plant trees in their name.  One charity I really like is called One Simple Wish.  You can buy specific gifts for children and young adults impacted by foster care, abuse, and neglect.  Before you donate, don't forget to check Charity Navigator, a website that ranks the legitimacy and transparency of charities, so you know that your money is going where it is supposed to go.  

 Hand Make Something

Are you crafty?  Do you want to add a personal touch to your holiday gifts this year?  Make something!  Besides being a super great time suck, Pinterest has tons of ideas for homemade gifts.  Here is a list from HGTV for 65 homemade gift ideas, and this list from Country Living for more ideas.  

Do you have houseplants that propagate? Take cuttings from your plants and plant them in cute mugs, jars, or pots that you find thrifting!  

 Wrap Sustainably

Oh!  One last note on wrapping your gifts for the holidays.  Sooooo much paper is wasted with wrapping.  Try recycled brown paper, old newspapers or magazine pages, or investigate companies like Greenfield Paper Company for plantable paper and recycled paper, or Wrappily, where they use recycled newsprint and give them a new look with adorable patterns.  Hand decorate one of the cardboard boxes you received a shipment in.  Give your present in a reusable bag that the recipient can use over and over.  Ain't no shame in re-using that birthday gift bag for your holiday present!  


I know it's hard to keep the consumerism in check around the holidays.  There's guilt if you don't purchase enough gifts for people, or if someone buys you something more expensive than you buy them.  I think the key is to try to be as thoughtful as possible.  Maybe spend a little more on one or two items instead of feeling like we need to get everyone a pile of gifts.  Stay strong!  Don't give into the pressure of manic and mindless buying.  Remember, spending money is not an indicator of how much you care for someone.  Sometimes, the best thing to do is write a really thoughtful card and put a bow on a $5 houseplant (or is that just me, because I would love to get a houseplant).  

Any other sustainable holiday ideas that you have?  Share them below!  



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