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Holiday shopping toolkit

Buying gifts during the holiday season and staying low waste can seem like an impossible combination. Although you may not be able to prevent all the waste you normally can, every little bit counts. Make a commitment this year to avoid disposable items and impulse purchases by doing some advance planning and assembling a shopping “toolkit.”

Before you go

Remember to reduce potential waste first. Think about what is meaningful to you and your recipient and see if you can avoid buying many gifts. Don’t wait until the last minute when you may feel pressured to buy something because you’re in a pinch. Plan to shop where you can get less packaging, like secondhand stores, local craft sales and even bulk grocery stores. Check your closets and storage bins for old wrapping paper or items that can function as such so you do not buy extra. Finally, when you head out the door, arm yourself with this low-waste holiday shopping toolkit.

Toolkit essentials

  • A gift list: This will help you stick to planned purchases and avoid making extra trips.
  • Reusable bags: These aren’t just for groceries! You may want to bring a few larger bags than those you typically have on hand (time for that old Ikea bag).
  • Reusable mugs/bottles: Bring at least one for water, and another in case you want a hot drink.
  • A healthy snack or two: Well-fed humans make better decisions!
  • Zero waste takeout/to-go kit: If you usually “shop-til-you-drop,” you should plan for at least one meal on the go. You can keep this kit in the car, or stick a fork and a cloth napkin into your bag or coat pocket.
  • Containers or bags for bulk foods: Edible treats make great gifts, and they are easy to find in bulk. 
  • A friend or family member: Besides helping you save gas by carpooling, another person can keep you in a happier mood and talk you out of impulse buys (don’t bring the ones who do the opposite).
  • Last but not least, patience! Holiday shopping can be a stressful time. Be kind to yourself and to others.

Additional shopping tips

If you do a lot of online shopping, you can still work to avoid disposable packaging and impulsive buying. Hold yourself to a minimum wait period between putting items in your cart and hitting ‘purchase’ to make sure you really want something and your decision isn’t based on the fact that it is late at night or you can get free shipping. To cut back on excess packaging, leave specific low-waste requests in a comment box or adjust your shipping preferences so multiple items ship together instead of singly. 

It’s not impossible to prevent waste while holiday shopping. If we all do a little better, it can collectively make a big impact. Start thinking about what you can do now.