Ten “Buy/Don’t Buy” Rules for Green Shopping

Make green shopping easier this holiday season by following the ten straightforward rules below.

1) Don’t buy anything that requires a throwaway battery. Batteries leak cadmium, lead and other heavy metals when they’re thrown away. They usually come wrapped in plastic and cardboard, creating more trash as soon as you buy them. Plus, you have to keep replacing them; in some cases, the cost of batteries over the life of a product ends up amounting to more than the product itself.  Avoid toys, gadgets and appliances that require short-lived, throwaway batteries. If you must give a battery-powered gift, include rechargeable batteries and the recharger to go with it. One of my favorites is a reuseable AAA battery you can recharge in the USB port of your computer.

2) Green Shopping Solution: Buy solar- or hand-powered. Among your options: hand-cranked flashlights, coffee grinders, blenders and juicers. Vintage-style razors with replaceable razor blades. A French-press coffee pot. More interested in solar? Try solar-powered chargers for cell phones, flash drives, and radios.

3) Don’t buy synthetic fragrances and air fresheners. Ironically, even though these products are supposed to make things smell better, they actually make it more difficult for many people to breathe, especially those who suffer from asthma or other respiratory problems. Want your home to waft Christmas? Simmer a small pot of water, cloves and cinnamon sticks over the stove. Need to smell better yourself? Dab a drop of essential oil from your favorite flower (mine is lavender) behind each ear and on the inside of each wrist.

4) Green Shopping Solution: Buy phthalate-free. Phthalates are often the building blocks for synthetic fragrances. They’re also found in nail polish and many other personal care products. The downside? They’re nasty chemicals considered a reproductive hazard in Europe and the state of California. Luckily, you can find a wonderful variety of phthalate-free nail polishes, perfumes, make-up and other personal care products in stores like Whole Foods and the Body Shop or online here.

5) Don’t buy BPA specifically and plastic generally. Bisphenol A, or BPA, is like phthalates – an “endocrine disruptor” that could be toxic to your reproductive system. It’s usually found in plastic, especially plastic water bottles, some baby bottles and nipples, and rubber and plastic toys. If what you want to buy is plastic or rubber, check the label for the words “BPA Free.” Better yet…

6) Green Shopping Solution: Buy stainless steel, aluminum, glass, or wood. Instead of plastic water bottles, choose stainless steel, aluminum, or glass bottles that come with a protective sleeve to reduce the chances of breaking. Choose glass or stainless steel food serving and storage containers, too. You can find wonderful toys made from wood and decorated with lead-free paint from many American companies.

7) Don’t buy wrapping paper, even if it’s recycled. Why does it matter? Because Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday period than at any other time of year, reports the Stanford Recycling Center. The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage, or about 1 million extra tons per week! If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet. Plus, if every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.

8) Green Shopping Solution: Buy reusables. Can you wrap it in cloth? Try decorative towels, large napkins, festive scarves and bandanas, tied up with shoelaces or ribbons. Use reusable shopping bags, lunch boxes, and cookie tins, too.

9) Don’t buy “natural.” Everybody likes the idea of “natural” – which is why marketers slap the words on products that couldn’t be farther from their natural state. Don’t get sucked into buying something just because the packaging claims it’s “natural.”

10) Green Shopping Solution: Buy certified. While “natural” doesn’t mean much, products whose environmental attributes have been certified to meet rigorous standards by organizations independent of the manufacturer can more readily be trusted. Look for companies whose claims that their goods are organic, Fair Trade, humane, non-toxic, or designed to help protect forests and wildlife have been independently certified. You can find a list of labels you can trust here.

Buy:                                                                       Don’t  Buy:

Solar- or Hand Powered                                           Battery Powered

Phthalate-Free                                                       Synthetic Fragrances & Air Fresheners

Stainless Steel, Aluminum, Glass                             BPA specifically, Plastic generally

Reusable towels, scarves, bags                              Throwaway wrapping

Certified                                                                Natural

Want more holiday tips? Look here for info on …

Eco-Frirendly Christmas Trees

Energy-Saving Holiday Lights/LED Holiday Lights

Holiday Candles Made From Soy and Beeswax

Safe Toys

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11 Responses to Ten “Buy/Don’t Buy” Rules for Green Shopping

  1. Micaela @Mindful Momma November 30, 2010 at 1:43 pm #

    Great tips in this post Diane! I’m focusing on reusables as gifts this year!

  2. Jenn December 5, 2010 at 9:47 am #

    Thanks for the great tips!

  3. Lori Alper aka Groovy Green Livin December 6, 2010 at 6:30 pm #

    Thanks for the great suggestions! My favorite is to stop using wrapping paper.

  4. Green Bean December 7, 2010 at 8:48 am #

    Love the comment about wrapping paper and the idea of wrapping in towels, etc. What about a cute vintage towel for mom’s gift? A handmade scarf used as wrapping for a sister’s? This year, I’ve also been raiding the thrift store for the reusable decorative boxes after I realized I am still using those types of boxes, received as gifts in my childhood, to hold our holiday decorations.

  5. Eco Mama December 10, 2010 at 11:04 am #

    Great tips, esp. the no perfume!!
    Eco Mama

  6. Barb Hughes December 14, 2010 at 12:53 pm #

    Love your tips. This year nearly all of the local family gifts are wrapped in items we already have, such as scarves, gift bags and tins we received last year and saved. One present was too big for the above so we wrapped it in a satin sheet. Many of the gifts under the tree I picked up at a Free Gift Swap the first Sunday in December – find out more at http://www.over40fashions.com/site/FREE_swaps%21.html
    What I didn’t get for free, I grew in my yard (dried oregano, bay leaves, chocolate mint, tomatoes), or purchased because a family member actually needed it (gloves and slippers for my son).

  7. Gwef December 14, 2010 at 3:17 pm #

    Love the list. We give “experiences” –membership at a local museum to the artist, tickets to a play to the friend who just moved –supporting local arts plus less “stuff.”

  8. Jeanne Beauchamp December 18, 2010 at 5:20 pm #

    I wanted to put a comment under the Christmas Tree chronic, but it was not possible, so here is my tip on Christmas trees:
    This year, I knew that I would not buy a plastic tree becuase it has an important impact on the environment, but I was also feeling kind of bad about buying a real tree…
    I found two solutions to this:
    Cut your own tree from a place where you know trees will all be cut off because of a new building, etc. This, you can only do if you live near a little forest.
    Or you can cut a tree from a place where you know it won’t develop the right way; where there are 5 trees for 1 foot meter of soil for example. Trees planted too near can’t grow correctly, they will fight all their lives for a bit of light. Cutting one off will actually help the others grow the right way and grow stronger.
    Hope you all have a great Holiday!
    Jeanne Beauchamp,

  9. Diane May 26, 2015 at 2:21 pm #

    Yes! Skin Deep is very helpful. Thanks for the reminder.


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    […] Cosmetics and Personal Care Products There are no universally recognized eco labels for cosmetics, shampoo, body lotion, deodorant, sun screen and other personal care products. Your best bet is to check what you use against Skin Deep, the Cosmetic Safety Data Base developed by Environmental Working Group, for products that contain the least harmful chemicals. Want more ideas on green shopping? See: Ten “Buy/Don’t Buy” Rules for Green Shopping […]

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