This post was originally published on the Zero Waste Box™ blog. Visit us there for more expert advice on recycling, zero waste lifestyle tips, and more!

This holiday season, show up for your people and the planet by purchasing with purpose and intent; a startling study reports Americans have spent approximately $16 billion annually on unwanted holiday gifts, most of which end up in the garbage! 

In these unprecedented times, everything we can do to be more thoughtful will steer us all in the direction of many merry and bright years to come, and voting with your dollar is the best way to make a change for the future you wish to see. 

Together, let’s make sustainability the spirit of the season, and choose to reduce, reuse, and recycle. 

Shop small. 

Millions of people partake in massive shopping sprees Black Friday and Cyber Monday (we do have a pretty sweet deal on our Zero Waste Boxes then, so stay tuned!), but save for Small Business Saturday to show support to independent businesses instead of big box retailers and strengthen the local economy while lowering your own carbon footprint.

Here’s how to get started: think local. Brick and mortar shops thrive on patronage from the community. Check out outdoor flea markets for curated, retro finds and craft shows where local makers display one-of-a-kind, handmade creations. Remember, everytime you shop small, you are helping to support an entrepreneur or family-owned business in your own neighborhood.

There are some amazing indie producers and small businesses online, but if you choose to order for delivery, make sure you have a Shipping Materials – Zero Waste Box packaging and delivery material.

Shopping small doesn’t always mean shopping in-person. Many small local businesses are entirely run through online marketplaces, such as Etsy, but to help reduce the impact of these purchases, keep a Shipping Materials – Zero Waste Box on hand to recycle e-commerce materials such as stretch and bubble wrap, packing peanuts, air cushions, and tape dispensers.

Take your time. 

Half the fun of shopping lies in the chase, but this is how impulse buys happen. Take the opportunity to do your research. When it comes to finding the perfect gift, ease the burden on your nerves (and your wallet!) by shopping in advance and “stalking” companies, brands, and products to give yourself some time to really think them through. 

Let’s take two major shopping categories around the year-end holidays: children’s toys and personal care and beauty products. Did you know most of these products are not recyclable curbside? When making decisions between brands, look for conscious companies working with us on a free TerraCycle program and feel good giving a gift designed with an end-of-life plan.

Are toys or beauty items on your shopping list? Look for ones committed to preserving a better future and environment, and a planet to live on for these two cuties!

Giving yourself plenty of time to shop will also help you avoid the need for expedited shipping and rush deliveries, and some online retailers will package everything in single deliveries if ordered at once, cutting down on the transportation carbon footprint and added packaging.

Gift for the long-game. 

We live in an increasingly throwaway society where most of what we consume has a very short lifespan. You can help spread the gift of thoughtfulness, durability, and value by shopping for items that will stand the test of time and loved ones can truly use and reuse over and over.

A good rule of thumb to follow while holiday shopping: buy less and buy well. If it’s an accessible option for you, splurge on that one big gift that you know your loved one will definitely use instead of gifting lots of little trinkets. Hint hint! This is the perfect time to snag a large All-In-One Zero Waste Box for your eco-conscious friends and family members so they can recycle the unrecyclable all year round! 

Experiences are key. 

We know what you’re thinking, but experiential gifts aren’t totally out. We just have to be a little more creative these days. Instead of taking friends to a winery, sign them up for a membership to a wine club. Get your foodies a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription and treat them to local, seasonal food straight from farm to table.  

For outdoorsy types, consider “adopting” a wild species through the World Wildlife Fund Symbolic Species Adoption program or planting a tree in their name with The Trees Remember. Resident culture buffs are sure to appreciate a subscription to a music or media outlet, and anyone missing the gym or studio will love a class pass for an exciting virtual fitness experience.

Insider tip: any resulting packaging waste from the subscription boxes or signage can be recycled with the Plastic Packaging – Zero Waste Box.

Consider gifting used!

This might sound taboo, but hear us out! The stigma around secondhand gifting (created to drive “new” sales, obsolescence, and disposability!) is waning. More and more people are realizing that gifting for reuse is a great way to share conscious values with loved ones and contribute less to the world of waste. Also, vintage and antique finds are so in right now. 

gifting for reuse is a great way to share conscious values with loved ones and contribute less to the world of waste. Also, vintage and antique finds are *so* in right now. 

What’s better than receiving a rare item someone hunted down just for you? Any true bibliophile will love to unwrap a first edition of their favorite novel, and music junkies will be ecstatic to own an original vinyl from a  band. Spend some time wandering around a thrift store or the quirky corners of the internet and you just might find a hidden gem for someone special on your list.

What’s your favorite shopping tip for saving money and the planet? Tell us in the comments!

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