With so much to look forward to during the holiday season, it’s not as fun to stop and think about the waste that comes with it. However, it is a factor we should consider, as you can still enjoy the beauty and magic of the season while creating more mindful purchasing habits.
Americans generate about 6.25 pounds of trash each day during the holiday season, bringing us to nearly 3 billion pounds of waste per week. (Source)
Returning a gift might seem like a good solution for reducing waste, but there is an environmental impact to consider. Retailers consider many factors when assessing whether or not a returned product is profitable for resale. In the end, some retailers opt to replace an item without requiring the shopper to return the original item because it’s more expensive to receive the item back than to replace it altogether. Retailers who choose to throw away rather than resell returned products are estimated to create 6 billion pounds of landfill waste. (Source)
Shocking realities such as these are great reasons to shift purchasing habits and prioritize sustainability this holiday season. See our guide below to prioritize sustainable gifting and pass it along to friends and family to do the same. From sustainable and local products to no-waste experiential gifts, you’ll find good-for-the-earth ideas for everyone on your list.
Local Nashville Businesses
Shopping locally supports the Nashville economy as well as lowers your carbon footprint. Buying from local shops cuts down on shipping-related pollution and energy use, as local businesses tend to source products and supplies nearby, leading to a reduction in airplane emissions.
For the coffee-obsessed roommate to the fashion-forward partner, Nashville has plenty of options for finding that just-right gift.
- Bongo Java- Use our affiliate link and code UGL10 for 10% off.
- Thistle Farms (Great for corporate gifting!)
- Humphreys Street (Great for corporate gifting!)
- Crema Coffee
- The Good Fill- Use our affiliate code UGL10 for 10% off.
- Newly* (great for corporate gifting!)
- Strings for Hope
- The Nashville Blanket Project
(B Corp*) (Local brick and mortar are notated with a “△”)
- Earth Hero*- Use this link to provide a donation to UGL just by shopping.
- Thrive Market*
- Package Free
- Uncommon Goods*
- Marine Layer*△
- Eileen Fisher*△
Visit B Corp US and Canada for a roundup of B Corp Gift Guides.
Porter Flea - Support 250+ local makers at this twice-annual market, providing diverse and unique goods.
- Friday, December 8, 6-9 p.m. and Saturday, December 9, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m.
- Indoors at the Nashville Fairgrounds- 1813 Nolensville Pike
The Ethos Market - Make a positive impact through your holiday purchases. Stop by this two-day market to support social enterprises and amplify their mission. Enjoy live music and bites from local food trucks as you shop.
- Friday, December 1, and Saturday, December 2, 10 a.m.- 4 p.m.
- The Center for Contemplative Justice at Thistle Farms- 5122 Charlotte Pike
Nashville Black Market - Spotlighting more than 100 Black-owned-buinesses and entrepreneurs, head over the first Friday of every month to support the incredible artists in our city.
- November 3, 2023, 6- 10 p.m.
- Nashville’s Farmers Market- 900 Rosa L. Parks Blvd.
Nashville’s vintage and second-hand shops make it easier than ever to find a perfectly unique gift, oftentimes at a more attractive price point, too. Let your creativity take you away and turn your thrift store finds into unique treasures. Read along here if you’re interested in learning more about buying used for the holidays.
Not all gifts need to be physical ones. Subscriptions and staycation trips will easily be coveted gifts by your friends and family.
- Compost Nashville subscription
- Justice Industries subscription - Use this link and code UGL to receive the first month of service free.
- Online class or workshop
- Gift a massage and/or salon service
- Book a staycation or a camping trip at a TN State Park.
Gifts that Give Back
Gifting doesn’t have to stop at the physical gift alone. Many companies give back to people and the planet with your purchase. Review this list of 15 brands that plant trees when you buy a product or visit brands like United by Blue or Kleen Kanteen, that donate a portion of their sales to cleaning our oceans.
Rethinking Traditional Holiday Cards
Holiday cards full of smiling faces are always a lovely addition to the fridge, but what happens when it’s time for the decorations to come down? These well-intentioned gestures spend infinitely longer in the landfill than they do displayed in your home. The roughly 1.3 billion holiday cards of non-recyclable mixed material, laminated paper, and additions like glitter and bows lead to the “same amount of CO2 emissions as charging 22 billion smartphones or 22,000 homes’ energy use for one year.” (Source)
Not to fear, though! There are plenty of alternative options to keep your holiday mail sustainable.
Keep an eye out for cards made from 100% recycled paper, minus the embellishments. For a card that serves as a two-in-one gift, purchase plantable or seeded paper. Or consider ditching the paper option altogether and opting for an e-card instead.
Finally, for those who like to craft, get creative with what you already have and bring out recycled paper and art materials to design your own eco-friendly holiday cards. Check out this article for more ideas on eco-friendly holiday cards.
Being mindful of your gift’s packaging is just as important as what’s inside! Some level of packaging may be unavoidable, but using recyclable materials is super simple. (P.S. Here’s a link to find out what’s recyclable in Nashville.)
Instead of using plastic-coated wrapping paper, try these swaps instead!
- Recycled Kraft/wrapping paper or the reverse side of paper grocery bags
- Make the wrapping part of the gift by presenting the gift in a sweater, blanket, tea towel, or a stocking
- Tins, jars, or baskets you already own
- Reused cardboard or cereal boxes
If you find yourself shopping on a site such as Amazon, try to combine shipping packages into one box and delay shipping so that everything comes on the same day. Try to shop brands that are more sustainable and reuse the packaging it comes in.
In a generally wasteful time such as the holiday season, there are many alternatives to turn this trend around. We hope this guide will help you make decisions and inspire change within your community.
We encourage you to embrace this season with the saying, “Less is more.” Conscientious consumerism is indeed a reality, and positive impacts can be created by supporting businesses that align with sustainable values and priorities.
Bethany serves as the Sustainable Workplaces Coordinator at Urban Green Lab. She supports the Assistant Director of Workplaces in oversight of the Urban Green Lab Certification Program, the Nashville Sustainability Roundtable, New Hire Orientation, and B Tennessee. Off the clock, you’ll find Bethany outside working in her garden, digging through an estate sale, reading, and traveling as often as she can.