Photo by: Jeanette Dietl

Green Tip: Holiday Gift Shopping

Green Tips | November 26, 2019

The holiday season is here! According to the National Retail Federation, Americans spent $707.5 billion in holiday retail sales during the 2018 holiday season. With all of the shopping comes the potential for quite a lot of waste. In fact, every year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, Americans throw away 25% more trash than any other time of year, including shopping bags, wrapping paper, bows, ribbons, and packaging. This year, consider the ways that you can cut down on this waste by changing your shopping habits.

Use a Green Holiday Gift Guide

One of the best ways to support climate action is with the national LCV Shop. With the holiday season upon us, they’ve put together an environmental gift guide with something for all of your loved ones. This year, they’ve prepared three bundles and each bundle comes with a variety of products perfect for the Climate Striker, Clean Energy Activist and Bee Lover in your life. Plus, every bundle comes with a free limited-edition Save the Snowflakes ornament!

Give the Gift of an Experience

Giving the gift of an experience can be an eco-friendly alternative in that the experience itself is less likely to produce waste, compared to giving a physical gift. Consider giving your friends or family tickets to a museum, fun activity, or the theater.

Gift Wrapping

Gift wrapping paper is a staple of holiday gifts, but the delicate paper usually goes straight to the trash or recycling bin. What’s worse, some gift wrapping isn’t even recyclable because of the shiny coating and lamina on the paper. 

If possible, skip the gift wrap paper this year and use reusable packaging, such as baskets, boxes, or bags to reduce waste. You can also simply add a bow or ribbon to the product box or gift box as decoration instead of wrapping paper. Another choice is to reuse old materials as gift wrapping. Using magazines, newspapers, maps, posters, or calendars as wrapping paper can give old materials a new life.

You can also try wrapping using a traditional Japanese method called Furoshiki, which dates back to the 8th century. Wrap your gifts in cloth, such as old clothes or scarves, and make the wrap part of the gift. This method has the added benefit of upcycling your clothing. Here are the instructions on how to use furoshiki for wrapping from Japan’s Ministry of the Environment website.

If you do buy wrapping paper, look for those made of recycled paper, such as paper from American Greeting, Creative, Jam Paper & Envelope. 


Every year, an estimated 2.6 billion holiday cards are sold in the U.S.

If you’re mailing holiday cards this year, try sending e-cards instead of traditional cards in order to eliminate paper waste. If you still want to send a physical card, you can make your own or use a postcard. 

Bring Your Own Bag

Bring your own reusable tote bag when shopping to reduce plastic use. Reusable bags help reduce plastic waste and keep our waterways clear. The bag should be washable and designed for multiple uses. Keep a bag in your car or purse, so one is always available. 

While you’re at it, stock up on extra reusable bags this holiday season because New York State enacted a ban on disposable plastic bags starting March 1, 2020.

If you can’t use your gift…

If you receive a gift that you can’t use or exchange at the store, you can swap it with people who want it. One option is to swap or give away your items through websites such as Craigslist, Bunz, Listia, and Freecycle. People also use Meetup to get together and swap their stuff. 

If you live in New York City, you can go to a GrowNYC Stop N’ Swap event to swap your item. These events accept clean, reusable and portable items, including clothing, housewares, games, books, and toys.

< Back to Citizen’s Toolkit

Get Involved