The holidays are upon us, and there’s no better time to discuss conscious consumption. Typically, it is somewhat a season of consumption—from both giving and receiving gifts to large meals shared with family and friends. Of course, every person’s holiday experiences are unique, but consumption resonates with most of us at this time of year. Conscious consumption looks at the consumer’s role in advancing sustainability, particularly in the realm of purchasing decisions and how they may be better informed—in the interest of greater social and environmental good.

So how do we make decisions that support sustainability and, as consumers, walk the sustainability walk in our own homes? We have a few ideas. This list is meant as a starting point to approach conscious consumption this holiday season. Certainly, the options go  beyond this list. If you have any other ideas, feel free to add them in the comments below or tweet at us!


  • When it comes to selecting gifts for people on your list, consider a few things before purchasing. What are the ethics of the company? Is this company committed to sustainability? This may add an extra step or two to your purchasing, but using resources like to support companies that use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems can have an impact year after year. You can also check the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark to ensure you’re shopping at businesses that respect human rights. Many other resources are out there, but these two can get you started. Another option is to purchase secondhand or thrifted gifts. It won’t always be appropriate, but vintage gifts and gently used items can make great gifts!
  • You can also shop directly from sustainable holiday gift guides. One of our favorites is Sustainable Brands’ 2017 Holiday Gift Guide, complete with products that are made from waste, buy one, give one products and gifts that help others.


  • If you’re hosting people this holiday season, you probably have a lot on your mind. One thing that you can simplify is the process of receiving “host gifts.” Instead of having people bring more food, flowers or any other kind of gift, you can encourage them to bring a non-perishable canned or dry food item for a food donation.


  • Making sustainable and ethical food choices around the holidays can be challenging. If you’re hosting, you can use the same resources as above to ensure the businesses you’re supporting are harnessing the power of business for good. Up for a bigger challenge? Try a plant-based holiday meal to cut down on your carbon footprint.


  • Another issue that seems to be the same in every household: extra food and no one to eat it, so it winds up in the trash. Reducing food waste reduces methane emissions from landfills, thus reducing your carbon footprint, and conserves energy and resources. So how do we minimize waste? First and foremost, prevention! If you are hosting, always get a head count so you have an idea of how much food you’ll actually need. As a guest, always offer to take home a plate or two of food and look up recipes for repurposing your holiday leftovers. If you still have to throw food away and live in a city like Ann Arbor with compost pickup, composting is the way to go. This avoids sending food waste into landfills. Or, better yet, start your own compost at home.

While sustainability writ large will not be solved by conscious consumerism alone, it is always good to remember that our purchases have impact. Have some more ideas about how we can practice conscious consumerism this holiday season? Let us know in the comments below or share with us on Twitter!

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