If you’re like me, one of the real pleasures of the Christmas season is the gift-giving.  I really enjoy shopping, hunting for the right deal, and being able to think critically about what I know about my friends and what might bring a smile to their face.  The USA’s biggest gift-giving holiday gives me an excuse to shop ‘til I drop without the follow-up sense of regret as my apartment becomes more cluttered.

There’s one important force in your life that you’ve probably never thought of giving a gift to before, and that’s the planet on which you live.  Earth sustains you, supports you, and provides for you, so as you make your lists and check them twice, make some considerations about the environmental impact of your gift-giving.

First, try to buy used whenever you can.  Everything we make, ship, and package uses resources, and many things also pollute.  One way you can reduce your footprint is to re-claim that which has already been loved once.  Used books (or digital books) can be just as much of a thrilling page-turner as new books.  Consignment shops can be your friend when it comes to clothes.  Antique stores are full of treasures when it comes to art and furniture.  Hit up craft shops for unique pieces that reclaim leftovers that could otherwise end up in the trash.

Is shopping used not an option?  Be conscientious about the materials that are used to produce what you buy.  Shopping local is almost always greener than shipping from far away, and always check out the virtual water footprint of whatever you’re buying.

And as always, be thankful for what you have.  The last major holiday before Christmas was Thanksgiving, but that doesn’t mean the season for thankfulness is over.  We all love ripping over brightly open paper and finding some precious treasure inside, but between friends, family, co-workers, and whoever else may be giving gifts, there’s room to do with a bit less.  Consider asking gift-givers to make a donation in your name to a favorite charity, or ask for that recipe you’ve been dying to try.  In the short term, it might seem unfortunate to miss out on the best gifts, but in the long-term, the gift of a healthy planet will be far better.