The most wonderful time of the year is just about here, whether we’re ready or not — but what the Earth is definitely not ready for is the impact the holiday season has on it. According to the National Environmental Education Fund, one million tons of additional waste — including wrapping paper, food, and trees — are produced in the US each week between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, and it’s up to us to do what we can to reduce this environmental toll to keep the season bright. Every little bit counts, and there are small things that we can do to cut back during the busy holiday shopping season, from the gifts we select, to how we buy them, to the ways that we wrap and unwrap them. Read on for some simple ways to make gifting more eco-conscious and celebrate sustainably this holiday season.

A woman in a small store checks a tablet

1. Shop small if you can. If you are still set on brick-and-mortar shopping to get the hottest holiday deals, make sure to bring recyclable totes with you so you’re not loading up on plastic and paper shopping bags. Before heading to the mall, do your research with a tool such as the Good on You app to make sure you’re shopping ethical brands that have the most sustainable manufacturing processes. (Hint: Trend-forward brands such as Adidas and Reformation are making huge strides in this department.) Or you can shop on a smaller scale on Small Business Saturday and find gifts at a cool vintage store, thrift shop, or a novelty shop with local handmade crafts (ideally made from recycled or upcycled materials).

2. Gift green. Another way to reduce our impact is in selecting gifts that are themselves made sustainably and ethically. For your wellness-obsessed friend, consider a Sugamat yoga or meditation mat or an emailed gift card to a subscription service like ClassPass to test out all the studios in their area. If your loved ones are dying for tech gifts this year, give them something that will make the Earth a better place; a Digital Paper electronic notebook from Sony helps them go totally paperless but still feel like they’re writing. Surprise a fellow Earth-lover with plant-based gifts, and make sure everything else you’re buying is all-natural — read the labels on cosmetics, skincare products, and fragrances especially, because many contain chemicals that pollute the air, which is a gift to no one in the end. Another thoughtful idea is giving consumable gifts: Making your friend a pumpkin pie they can serve during a holiday meal or jarring your own spice mix will ensure that there’s way less waste.

A woman uses a laptop while sitting on her living room floor

3. Go online. Last year, the USPS estimated 850 million packages were delivered during the busy holiday season (that’s *a lot* of cardboard), and this year should be no different. But believe it or not, online shopping is often more sustainable, because it cuts down on all the processes and packaging that are getting the products in the stores in the first place. If you can, purchase gifts from online retailers who make an effort to cut down on or recycle their shipping packaging. E-comm giants Amazon and Walmart have attempted to reduce their packaging and make it easier to recycle and to up their delivery efficiency, but there’s still much more work to be done.

4. Give an experience. Experiential gifts are trendy right now, so why not get on board? Spending time together can be the best gift for a friend or significant other, so come up with a fun, environmentally friendly activity for two. It can be going to a museum, taking a dance lesson, collaborating on an escape room adventure, seeing a cool live storytelling event like The Moth, or something as simple as planning a hike or picnic to share.

5. Wrap with the planet in mind. Yes, sparkly packages in festive colors tied up with ribbons are cute, but all the wrapping gets discarded, and the waste could stretch for miles around the Earth after the holidays are over. At the very least, save the paper gift bags from year to year and keep them in use. Even better, use a greener wrapping method: Check out Wrappily, which prints patterns on recycled newspaper for wrapping paper, ribbon, and more, and can be recycled after use; or try Rewrapables fabric gift bags, which can be reused time and time again.

What eco-friendly items are you gifting or hoping to receive this year? Tag us in your stories @BritandCo.

(Photos via Getty)

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