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Celebrate the environment: Your holiday shopping list can be eco-friendly

2008 November 18

About the author: Andrea Drinkard is Web Content Coordinator in EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation.

If you’re like me, when you go shopping the environment isn’t always the first thing on your mind. I’m always worried whether they’ll have my size or if it’s going to be on sale, but not necessarily what the environmental impact of my purchases will be.

On my last shopping trip, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye-a sticker that asked me to shop smart. Smart shopping doesn’t just mean finding the best deals, taking the most efficient route, or finding what you’re looking for as soon as you walk in the store. But it also means keeping the environment in mind while you shop.

With the holidays coming up and lots of shopping in my near future, I started to think how easy it would be to put Mother Earth on my gift list. I mean, a lot of the things I’m already doing to be eco-friendly at home, at the office or on the road could be done while shopping for holiday gifts. I take public transit to work; why not take it to the mall? I use the energy-save mode on my computer; why not buy one that has earned the new ENERGY STAR? I reuse and recycle at home; why not make a gift out of reused or recycled materials instead of buying a new one?

These small, but important, choices also have a positive impact on your wallet. Planning ahead to reduce the number of trips you take saves gas and saves you money. Buying ENERGY STAR products reduces your energy bill year-round. And that all adds up to a gift that keeps on giving.

So, this holiday season, I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the environment by traveling, shopping, decorating and cleaning up in an environmentally friendly way. Check back with us at this week and throughout the season to find out how you can turn your holiday green.

To see how others are being green this holiday season and to let us know what you’re doing, check out EPA’s question of the week about greening your holiday.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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17 Responses leave one →
  1. Dan permalink
    November 18, 2008

    Good tip on taking public transit to the mall; during the holiday season, you probably spend about as much time looking for a parking spot as you would waiting for the bus. Of course, buying everything online saves energy too :)

  2. November 18, 2008

    smart shopping is a great idea, i always look for stuff to help mother nature one thing i try to do is to make sure the packages i buy are recyclable,every little helps nice post with great points

  3. Victoria permalink
    November 18, 2008

    Buying online certainly helps save hours of driving around to find the right gift for everyone on your list. It prevents congestion, pollution and saves gas and money!

    However, buying American, or local, is as important to being green as any. If the products we are consuming are made in a far corner of the world, the carbon footprint left behind when shipped across the globe is enormous. By buying local we not only help our economy, we also help the environment!


  4. Mary G permalink
    November 18, 2008

    This year, I’m going to be more GREEN while decorating my GREEN (green tree, get it?) by using popcorn strings instead of garland. This way, I can use them in my compost pile afterwards! :)

    I was thinking of boxing the compost and giving it to Mother Earth as a present, but she’s not as easy to find as Santa is at the mall! Haha, get it???

  5. Composty McComposterson permalink
    November 18, 2008


  6. November 18, 2008

    Remember: even if you shop 10% greener, the world is 10% better off. So don’t frustrate yourself in wanting to do it 100% green (like I used to do), because that is almost impossible. Set achieveable goals and also enjoy your shopping.

  7. Brian permalink
    November 19, 2008

    Give gifts of memorable experiences (game/concert tickets, gift certificate for a night on the town, etc.) instead of stuff.

  8. Kelly permalink
    November 25, 2008

    Make decorations or place markers out of pinecones. Paint and decorate like a tree and use a painted bottle cap for the trunk. If you have ever beaded I am sure you have mismatched beads around for the decorations. Embroidery floss for garland…

  9. Kort permalink
    December 4, 2008

    Several tips from an environmental professional:
    1. Don’t flock your tree. Flocking prevents recycling of the tree.
    2. Use gift bags instead of wrapping. Bags are reusable.
    3. Wear your clothes instead of wearing the house. Turn down the temp some in the house.
    4. Make a commitment to recycled products including TP and paper towels for the new year.
    5. Don’t leave your tree on the street after Christmas. Put it in the recycle bin. Yard waste in the storm drain causes pollution.
    6. Consolidate shopping trips and use the smallest vehicle possible or take public transit… put the family on the train this Christmas…
    7. Get rid of your newspaper habit. Start using online news this year.
    8. Plan a new environmental project this coming year: Insulate, install solar, change to double glazed windows, get a new computerized thermostat, replace that old water heater with a tankless unit, replace that SUV with a hybrid/electric vehicle… I assume that all your light bulbs are compact florescent …
    9. Completely eliminate your use of plastic bags while shopping. Visit your local creek to see what plastic bags have done for us. Use cloth bags when ever possible.
    10. Clean up your yard/storage areas. Anything outside that can flow to storm drain or contaminate rainwater will pollute your local creek directly. Oil stains, leaves, dirt, chemical containers, gasoline containers, greasy equipment (lawn mowers, etc.) need to be cleaned up and/or covered and stored off the ground when outside.
    11. Discharge your pool/spa to the sanitary sewer when changing the water. Pool/spa water must not be drained to the storm sewer system!
    12. Wash your car at the CAR WASH. Soap makes fish sick.

  10. akken permalink
    December 18, 2008

    We always re-use wrapping paper and boxes at my house. It’s always fun to see who else actually got the present that was wrapped in the same paper last year. It also makes the surprises in the boxes a lot more fun…otherwise I would have gotten an alarm clock 5 years in a row! We also sort of re-gift…there’s no sense in the books you’ve already read or the cook book you don’t use sit on the shelf collecting dust. Let someone else read and enjoy them, and I’m sure they won’t feel slighted, especially if it’s a good one! I also re-use containers from old gifts. For example, the empty lip balm tub makes a perfect container for medications when you travel or for in your purse.

  11. Marian Petre permalink
    March 20, 2009

    Good opinion, smart shopping mean ecological shopping.
    If we keep the nature clean the future will be good for us.
    Also the cleaning services should be done well everywhere.

  12. John permalink
    December 1, 2009

    Recycling is not only good for the environment it’s a great way of saving money! Some great ideas on this blog. John Wikaniko, UK

  13. shammy permalink
    June 24, 2010

    Buying online certainly helps save hours of driving around to find the right gift for everyone on your list. It prevents congestion, pollution and saves gas and money! yes, Internet technology make green world.

  14. Anonymous permalink
    December 24, 2011

    Composting is a green way to help reduce our food waste naturally. Instead of throwing away our food waste, feed them to the earthworm where this tiny creature will convert them into compost and can be used as fertilizer to your plants.

  15. permalink
    January 10, 2012

    Great post! Wish that we’d caught this one earlier. But just wanted to add something that can even come in handy on birthdays or any holiday where people give gifts.

    You can have an even greener gift giving days by cutting back on the amount of gift wrapping paper that you use or throw away.

    Otherwise, the gift wrapping paper can become a source of environmental waste.

    The easiest way to conserve your wrapping paper is to wait until after you’ve received your gifts and then put your used wrapping paper in the recycling bin instead of the garbage.

  16. srikanthvarma permalink
    October 12, 2012

    Thank you for the article. It is really is a shame that most people that comment on on blogs are just looking for a link.
    Instead of actually trying to add useful information

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