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Sustainable Gift Giving Guide

Repeat after me: buying secondhand gifts isn’t cheap, it’s sustainable! What’s more thoughtful than the gift of a human-sustaining planet?? I’ve been gifted mint-condition Eddie Bauer cashmere sweaters, Michael Kors dress pants, silk dresses, and so much more – all from secondhand shops. If hunting through charity shops like Goodwill and Salvation Army isn’t your thing, there are lots of other options.

secondhand christmas tree with family ornaments

Convenient secondhand shopping

Curated vintage shops can be found in nearly any city. They offer a slightly more streamlined shopping experience (at a slightly higher price point). Online retailers like Poshmark and threadUP provide searchable shopping. Craigslist and Facebook marketplace are great for finding local furniture, electronics, plants, and other homegoods. Buying from local shops and sellers also means using less resources for transportation and shipping.

Frequent secondhand finds

Keep a lookout for these items, which can often be found secondhand:

  • Books: used book stores are great. A random assortment of titles can also be found at charity shops. I love, which has a ton of great titles and search functionality. But none of the Amazon guilt!
  • Jewelry: vintage shops offer unique jewelry at a wide range of price points, from costume to fine.
  • Cashmere: I have purchased (or been gifted) an absurd number of cashmere sweaters for less than $10 a piece at charity shops. Just run your hands through the racks – you’ll know when to stop. 
  • Picture frames: you may have to face a creepy clown or a non-descript landscape, but charity shops are rife with low-cost framing for your thoughtful gift.

Some new goods are more sustainable than others 

If you’d rather not give secondhand, you can still decrease your environmental and humanitarian impact this gift-giving season by:

  • Supporting local businesses and independently owned shops. Local does not necessarily translate to sustainable, but at least your dollar is supporting your community. A lot of the small shops in Rhode Island, where I live, make an effort to embed themselves in the community and sell locally made goods. 
  • Supporting artists buy patroning etsy or artist markets in your area. Buying from artists means supporting humane production. Artists are not typically operating at a grand enough scale to have employed the cost-saving, resource-draining processes that larger operations have.  
  • Looking for brands that talk about their impact on the environment. The biggest red flag when it comes to brands and their poor business practices is a lack of transparency. Brands like The R Collective, Tamga Designs, and Mate the Label make an effort to minimize their environmental impact and protect the garment workers. Good on You and B Corp are great resources for understanding the true impact of brands.
  • Gifting certificates for massages, escape rooms, and other experiences are also great sustainable options – although perhaps a little less accessible in the midst of this pandemic.

Give the gift of a livable future this holiday season!