Since starting this journey, we have been more conscious about the things we buy and why we buy them. It’s particularly true right now when it comes to gifts: we want to put more thought into gifts for friends and family, while still being good to the planet, animals, and people. And while we’re far from perfect (sometimes we buy things ‘just cause’ because it brings those we love a bit of happiness), we still try to be mindful where it counts.
Below are a few questions we ask ourselves when shopping for gifts, that we hope you find helpful too. While it’s not always possible to check off everything on this list, we still think hitting one is better than none. Small and consistent decisions make big impacts.
What materials or ingredients is this product made from? Sustainably sourced materials and ingredients produce a lower carbon footprint and create the least amount of impact on the environment. This includes (1) ingredients grown and harvested without the use of pesticides and (2) materials that are locally sourced and produced with renewable energy, producing less pollution and waste. We also think it’s important to think about the product’s after-life too: can it be recycled, repurposed, or composted after we finish using it? A few other tips:
Shopping for clothing. Look for those made with natural fibers like organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, linen, and merino wool. Try to avoid polyester, acrylic, viscose rayon, conventional cotton, acrylic, and most leathers. If you must buy nylon or polyester, make sure it’s made from a recycled source.
Shopping for beauty products. Look for those made with non-toxic, raw, and/or plant-based ingredients that are safe for the skin (if it’s safe for us, it’s safe for the people who harvested them). Our rule of thumb: if we can’t pronounce or understand the first few ingredients on the back label, we’ll put the item back on the shelf. Check out EWG Skin Deep’s cosmetic database for a list of ingredients to avoid in beauty products.
Other things. For other items of all sorts (household items, snack packages, chocolates, what have you) check for (1) eco-friendly certifications (2) safety certifications such as BPA-free or FDA approved.
Is this product packaged in recyclable and/or compostable materials? We like to look for products packaged with post-consumer recycled materials, paper wrappings, sustainable ink, cardboard boxes, or plant-based boxes. Do your research, but also consider these tips:
Shopping online. The next time you receive a box in the mail check to see how it was wrapped. Was it filled with traditional styrofoam, peanuts, or bubble wrap? If you still get them, consider saving the insides to reuse when shipping gifts to friends. Then ask them to do the same (better to give these a longer shelf life rather than none at all). How about the excessive product to packaging ratio? Consider another retailer in the future. After realizing Amazon ships items in too large of boxes, we limited the items we bought from them. You can also email retailers and ask them if it’s okay to ship products in a more eco-friendly approach (this actually works!).
Shopping in person. Make a round of the product and ask yourself: “Can I reuse any of the materials?” “Can the package be recycled or composted afterward?” “Is the package itself made from recycled materials?” Do this carefully, because pretty packaging can be deceiving –– just because something looks “green” doesn’t always mean that it is.
Is this product ethically produced? There are many factors behind the meaning of ethically made goods. For us, this means products that are not made based on the hardships of another living person or animal. This means: fair trade, fair wages, fair labor, sustainable practices, and products that have never been tested on animals. Often, we’ll support products that are made in the USA or brands who are transparent with their process. But we’re also on the lookout for certifications like certified B Corp, certified vegan, world fair trade organization, fair trade certified, or the cruelty-free leaping bunny. Plus, other helpful tools: The Good Guide App, Shop Ethical App, and the Think Dirty App.
Note: We agree it’s difficult to be certain of a brand’s transparency so be sure to do your research. Look at a brand’s social media accounts, website, and “about us” section. Check to see if they are vocal about their customers asking questions.
Does this company support corporate responsibility? Get to know who, what, and where your money supports. There are brands who donate a percentage of their proceeds to support an environmental cause or charity. A few we support are a part of 1% for the Planet, Green America, and The Conservation Alliance. Don’t be afraid to email a company to ask how the proceeds help their chosen organization and the exact amount the organization receives.
Do I (or my friend) really need this? In the past, a lot of our purchases were impulse buys, and more often than not, we realized we didn’t really need the product. Again not perfect, but then we started to ask the important questions: “Do I need this?” (like really need it). “How often will I use it?” “Do I already have something like that at home?” “Can I borrow this from a friend?” “Can I repurpose my old stuff instead of buying this?” and “How much do I want it?” Our motto? Buy fewer things and buy good quality items that are made to last. A part of shopping more mindfully is shopping minimally too.
Have you made the decision to shop more mindfully this holiday season or all year round? Are you already doing this? We’d love to know your tips below!
Jennifer and Vivian