Green Your Holidays: Five Tricks for Green Holiday Shopping


You really never know what you might find on Freecycle. This family adopted backyard chickens through the network— though you’re more likely to find books, clothes and household appliances. Click on the image for more information on the joys of backyard chickens.

It’s that magical time of the year again—but is the tradition of giving gifts at odds with your feelings about consumerism? Do you worry about the environmental impact of buying a bunch of new things that might not really be used?  Do you want a fat wallet, happy friends, and zero carbon-guilt? Of course you do! Here are five tips for green giving:

1. Giving & Receiving with Freecycle

Family and gifts can combine to make your home feel a little cluttered over the holidays. Right now is the time to take a preemptive strike at mess by paring down the stuff you already own.

Joining a Freecycle network is a great way to send your unwanted belongings on to a loving home. After signing up for your local Freecycle listserv, you’ll be able to send out notices about the items you want to give to other members, allowing them the opportunity to take that stuff off your hands.

Once you’ve given to the community a little, feel free to claim other items up for grabs. “Shopping” for holiday gifts on Freecycle can have an incredibly low carbon footprint, save you money, and help you give back to your community.

2. Thrift Store Shopping!

Buying something secondhand is much more environmentally friendly than buying it new. The fact that it’s easier on your wallet is just an added bonus. In the last issue of the Green American magazine, member Nancy Madsen had this to say about thrift store shopping:

Check out this super sweet umbrella I found at my local thrift store!

“My large family didn’t want to stop exchanging gifts, but we didn’t want Christmas to break the bank, either—and we realized we were really losing the true Christmas spirit with all the stress of shopping. Probably 15 or 20 years ago, we decided to limit the amount spent to $5 per person and to encourage creativity. Many of us started resale shopping at places like Goodwill—or Value Village thrift stores, which support local nonprofits by paying them to collect used items.

“My family now spends one day shopping together in November, and we have lots of fun doing it. It has become a tradition that we all look forward to, and it has caused us to become resale shopping junkies. Now we buy most of our clothes at the resale shops as well. My sister and I have had numerous compliments on our outfits, and we often say Value Village is our clothing designer!”

3. Homemade Food & Body Care


Tiz the season for sneezin’—check out these home-made decongestant shower disks. Click on the image for a how-to.

Are you shopping for someone who seems to have everything they need, is moving to a smaller house, or otherwise cutting down on their belongings? Homemade food can be a great gift for these people.

Another option is homemade personal body care. Body care is often chock full of carcinogens and other toxins — check out our article on poisons in conventional cosmetics and a few tips for protecting yourself.

Your homemade body care gifts will be safe for your loved ones and have a wonderful, personal touch. Plus, it will be used up, which is great for people who don’t want “more stuff.”


Make a hollowed out book for a young kid to store treasures in. Click on the picture for a great how-to article by Heather Rivers.

4. Homemade Gifts from Recycled Materials

You can transform recycled materials into unique gifts with super-low carbon footprints.

  • A hollowed out book can be a thoughtful gift for a younger kid wanting a place to hide secret treasures.
  • Have some old jewelry and wine-corks? Check out this tutorial for making gorgeous tree ornaments (I especially love the pictures).
  • Cut out colorful little squares of used wrapping paper and holiday cards and write a few dozen things you appreciate about your loved one. Place the notes in a mason jar and decorate with recycled ribbon or a piece of colorful cloth. More on that here.

Win a set of these rainbow soaps by tweeting about this post using the link below.

5. Buying New? Buy Green! (Also Win Some Gorgeous Soaps.) If you’re like me and think you’ll end up buying one or two gifts new this year, consider buying from certified green businesses. You’ll be supporting the green economy, which includes Fair Trade, fair wages, and green practices from recycling to sustainable sourcing. Check out businesses in our National Green Pages® holiday guide.

If you want to go the extra mile, buy from businesses certified by Green America at the gold level. This certification means that, according to our screening process, they are “operating on the highest level of social and environmental responsibility in the way they source, manufacture, and market their products and run their offices and factories.” You can read more about it here.

Simmons Natural Body Care is one business we’ve certified at the highest level—gold. Check out these gorgeous organic rainbow soaps. They’ve donated a basket of these to us to give away to one of you.

All you have to do to enter to win is tweet about this article using the following link: . If you don’t have a twitter account, just tell us about your own DIY gift traditions in the comments below, and we’ll enter you to win.

There are so many great ideas out there for greening your holidays. The most environmentally friendly ways are Freecycling, buying second hand or making gifts from recycled materials. If you’re going to buy something new, just remember that there are some wonderful green business owners who have sustainability ingrained into every level of their business.

Your money has an impact on the world after you spend it—the holiday season is a great time to make sure the impact is a positive one.

Congratulations to last week’s winner, Heather! Please email editors (at) greenamerica (dot) org to claim your Artisan Tea Blending Kit from Numi Tea.


  1. (No Twitter account for me!) I just now re-purposed some ridiculous packing paper that came in a shipping package to use as wrapping paper for gifts. Plus, it evokes that whole “brown paper packages tied up with string” imagery. I’ve also used pretty pictures cut out from magazines for the same purpose.

  2. My families DIY holiday tradition was started by my children many years ago when they were young. The tradition is, we don’t do holiday’s. We give to each other all year long. When some needs tires, or their car breaks down or the washer stops working or they see something they just can’t live without, it’s never the end of December when it happens, it’s always some other time of year. So if that person chooses, they get what they need, or want when they need it along with a recycled (previous persons name whited out) holiday card no matter what month it is. Then on the date of the holiday, everyone brings a dish and we all spend time together sharing how our years went.

    • Really!? Your children started a holiday without gifts? I guess that makes sense. Corey from Green Halloween ( said that it’s usually the adults who worry about changing holiday traditions — the kids are more often OK with it.

  3. Since I am low income, several years ago I started giving my family members books that I get for free or at a low cost used. I have 28 nieces and nephews plus my siblings. I was able to get about 50 books free this year, and several more at a low cost. I enjoy giving gifts to people that they want. My family members are avid readers, so books are perfect for them. I trade books on This year i also bought a “treasure” chest at good will for $1. I’m painting it gold and decorating it with “jewels” for my 8 yr old niece who loves lots of bling.

    • Congratulations, Rachel! You win the basket of rainbow soaps. Please email your address to editors (at) greenamerica (dot) org so we can have Simmons Natural Body Care mail you your prize.

  4. Some years I made my own Christmas cards (back when I had Photoshop & Illustrator). Families with kids could do this with simpler tools – crayons & paints, especially since kids aren’t so obsessed with making the “perfect” drawing!
    Or, for the “artistically impaired,” there’s that old trick of cutting off the front of cards you’ve received in past years and gluing them onto card stock. Voila!

  5. This year I’m combining cocoa butter and jojoba oil to make a lovely salve base with custom healing essential oils added for specific loved ones. After melting the cocoa butter in a double boiler, add jojoba oil a little at a time until the mix is a soft solid at room temp and melts at body heat. Test with some spoons kept in a glass of ice water. When the mix solidifies on the spoon it should be ready. Allow to cool before adding 100 drops of essential oils to about 2 1/2 to 3 oz. of salve. Refrigerate the blend to solidify in a nice tin or glass container.

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