By Mary O’KEEFE
According to Adobe’s holiday shopping data, $86.6 billion has been spent on retail items from Nov. 1 to Nov. 24. That’s a lot of stuff and eventually that stuff will find its way to the garbage. If we are lucky, some of it will be recycled but for the most part those once treasured gifts will end up in a landfill.
On Monday, LAist‘s program “All Things Considered” focused on fair trade sustainable gift-giving in a report titled “Sustainable Shopping” by Erin Stone. (LAist was formerly NPR’s KPCC.)
“While not guaranteed to always be better for climate pollution, buying fair trade certified products and from local small businesses often has a lower carbon footprint, and always has bigger benefits for supporting local economies,” according to the report.
“There’s definitely the whole politics of consumption, whether we actually need all of these goods that we’re purchasing, and are there other ways to show our love for each other besides buying a present,” Ellen Reese said in the article. “But [when we do need to buy gifts] then we need to consider, ‘Where are all these goods being sourced?’”
Reese is a professor of Society, Environment and Health Equity at UC Riverside.
Sustainable and fair trade shopping has become more popular over the years.
According to Retail Dive, in a study published on Nov. 15, 2022, 40% of shoppers stated they were open to paying extra during the holidays for eco-conscious products, and 43% would be more willing to buy from brands with sustainability practices like carbon-neutral shipping or low-waste operations.
“Nearly two-thirds of shoppers [63%] would recommend a product if they think it isn’t very harmful to the planet. The same share of respondents said they are researching more to find brands that are fulfilling their climate ambitions, prioritizing items with eco-friendly packaging and purchasing goods from local businesses to lessen the environmental impact, the survey found,” according to an article concerning the study in Retail Dive.
I can tell you this topic was inspired by my daughter Jessy who works for two non-profits. One is BleuWorld, which teaches people to be citizen scientists to help gather ocean data; the other is California Greenworks based out of South Los Angeles.
For 20 years, Greenworks has focused on environmental justice and climate equity, sustainable, community-based restoration to eliminate urban blight and promote green space development, create innovative, modern and actionable green education and curriculum and advocate for green job creation and economic development.
Jessy followed in her siblings’ footsteps of volunteering, which they all learned through this amazing community. One of the events she is planning is on this Saturday, Dec. 9. “An Eco Holiday Boutique” was inspired by previous Prom Plus boutiques, though Jessy added her environmental protection twist.
This is the first year of the Eco Boutique and it has been kept small, offering just a few vendors, but they are all eco focused. Some will give back to environmental non-profits while others sell sustainable products.
As mentioned in the LAist story, many small businesses carry eco friendly or fair trade items. All of the vendors featured in the eco boutique are small businesses, and all give back to their environmental communities.
Shoppers will find artists who use trash as their medium, as well as jewelry designers and a zero refill store.
“[One vendor has] a soap that is derived from vegetable and cooking oils from South Bay restaurants,” Jessy said.
That oil is turned into soap that can be used for cleaning. This vendor is also a refill business; people can either bring their own bottles to be filled with a variety of shampoos and lotions or they can purchase a bottle that can be refilled over and over again.
“I think people want [sustainable] options for gifts,” Jessy said.
Another issue is wrapping those gifts.
“When you wrap your [gifts] think about using paper bags or some reusable material,” she added.
According to Brightly, an eco-friendly organization that empowers consumers, Americans create 25% more garbage between Thanksgiving and New Year’s than any other time of the year. About 2.3 million pounds of wrapping paper end up every year in a landfill.
And putting your discarded wrapping in a recycle bin doesn’t necessarily mean it will be recycled. Some paper cannot be recycled and will end up in a landfill anyway.
There is a misconception that buying sustainable or eco-focused products is too expensive; in some cases items are more expensive – but not always, just like in any shopping experience.
“Ideally, to make the biggest impact we would change the way Amazon and Walmart packages their [items],” Jessy said.
Changing big box ways of doing things will take a long time and it is understandable that many people buy from large companies that offer deals that can stretch a dollar; however, making small changes will lead to bigger changes.
“It is about changing the mindset of people,” Jessy said, “to create a buzz that you can have a limited amount of waste lifestyle especially during gift giving holidays.”
The Eco Holiday Boutique is on Saturday, Dec. 9 from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Stoneview Nature Center, 5950 Stoneview Drive in Culver City.
And because I will be focusing on trees for the next few weeks it seems like a perfect time to mention that Greenworks is offering free trees for planting to those who qualify. There are several tree types, including African fern tree, Tipu tree, sycamore and Chinese photinia. To find out if you qualify go to CalEnviroScreen; applicants must score 80 or above.
It looks like pretty nice California holiday shopping weather in the near future. Today there will be winds from the north/northwest that see gusts of 20 to 30 mph in the foothills with gusts of 30 to 50 mph in the mountains. Friday will see a decrease in winds but then Santa Anas will be back for the weekend.
“On the weekend there will be similar winds as [Thursday and Friday] but may be a touch stronger in the mountain areas,” said Ryan Kittell, forecaster at National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.
Temperatures will have highs in the low 70s/high 60s from today through next week.