November 16, 2009

Before You Shop for the Holidays

Vestina F. Crayton, Extension Specialist – Urban Sustainability, Pinellas County Extension

Whether you believe that we are in a recession or not, most will agree that being an informed and smart consumer is important. With the overwhelming media coverage on climate change, being ‘green’ and the need for renewable energy sources, an increasing number of consumers are becoming more aware and concerned about the impact their daily activities are making on their health, finances and the environment. To address these growing concerns, buyers are diligently searching for ways to improve their quality of life without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

Research has shown that if everyone on the planet consumes at the rate that the United States is, it will take four earths to replenish the resources to sustain one earth.

This holiday season, buyers can make a difference by simply making better purchasing decisions.

From fruit to hand lotion, retailers are boasting the environmentally friendly benefits of their goods. While these claims are good and will excite the eager buyer, you must be aware of the possible shortcomings of these claims. Always remember, the retailer’s main objective is to sell their goods.

Here are a few key things to consider before you make that purchase. Whenever practical and possible remember to:
~ Buy locally.

~ Buy
fair trade products.

~ Buy low volatile organic compound (VOC) products. If it is time to replace living room
furniture or flooring, make sure you look for products that use low VOC coatings and sealants.

~ Buy
Energy Star appliances and electronics.

~ Don’t forget to take your own reusable bags to the store.

~ Buy in bulk. In addition to saving you money buying in bulk reduces the amount of packaging needed.

~ Buy recycled products.
Products should have the above mentioned attributes clearly visible on the label. If it does not, ask the sales person to assist you with finding these products.

Think outside the box and be creative with your gift giving this holiday season. For example:

Charitable Contributions – There are many reputable organizations that can help you give your hard-earned dollars to a worthy cause. You can contribute in your name or in a friend or family member’s name. The possibilities are endless. From helping to drill a well for underserved countries where clean water is a luxury, to donating funds to help fight global warming.

Re-Gift - Newlyweds often receive two of the same thing or a gift that does not meet their current needs. Consider giving that extra toaster or those plaid shower curtains to someone on your list.

Donate Your Time – As a family, you can pledge to donate a determined number of volunteer hours to a local organization in need. There are many opportunities right in your own backyard. If you are having trouble identifying a place to volunteer, contact your local Extension office for assistance. Volunteerism is the perfect gift to give to your community and it will also strengthen your family bond by enhancing your teamwork skills.

Before you shop this holiday season, take a moment to think about the potential impacts your purchases can make, do your research, and be innovative.

Hammer. M. & , Papadi. J. 2002, Enviroshopping: Buy Smarter FCS 3158 Retrieved from

Environmental Protection Agency

Energy Star

Charity Navigator

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