Gift Sustainably and Reduce Your Impact This Holiday Season
By: Heather Bien
Many of us are doing our best each and every day to keep sustainability top of mind and reduce our impact on the environment –– but how does that play out during this season of gift giving?
We want to show our loved ones that we’re thinking of them in a way that also shows we’re thinking about the planet. Of course, there’s no one perfect way to give sustainably, but there are a few things to keep in mind as you start making your gift list. Here’s what we’re doing to reduce our impact this holiday season.
Do Your Research Before You Buy
There may be people on your gift list that you know love to open a beautifully wrapped present. And, while giving non-tangible items might seem like the most sustainable option, you also want to have options for environmentally friendly and ethical gifts. Remember, the most thoughtful gift is one that takes into account what will make the recipient smile!
So, do your research before you buy. Look into the companies you’re buying from. To the greatest extent possible, find out where they are sourcing their materials and whether or not they’re using ethical manufacturing processes. Shop local when available. If you’re buying from eco-friendly companies, then you’re doing your part to make the holidays more sustainable.
Want to avoid the excess caused by shopping, wrapping gifts, and discarding unwanted holiday items? Gift your loved ones an experience! It could be something simple and heartfelt like a home-made dinner date night, something fun –– maybe concert tickets or a cooking class, or something special, perhaps a night away in a favorite place.
Giving experiences takes the materialism out of the holidays, while making room for all the memories.
Give to Your Loved Ones’ Favorite Charities
For the friend or family that truly wants to make an impact and do good this season, consider a gift to their favorite charity or cause. Or, consider letting those who may have you on their nice list know that the most meaningful gift would be a donation to a non-profit that has made a positive impact on your life.
Give Gifts That Encourage Sustainability
Speaking from experience, sometimes it’s hard to pull the trigger on buying items that we know would help our sustainability around the house. Glass storage containers, stainless steel straws, reusable food wraps, and cloth coffee filters seem like a wonderful idea, but investing in those home items does have a higher upfront cost than the less environmentally friendly options we’re used to.
And, that’s exactly why they make great gifts! I love gifting people the things they won’t buy themselves. Pull together a basket of items that help day-to-day sustainability in the kitchen and, for bonus points, wrap them up with an eco-friendly wrapping option –– use simple brown bags and recycled ribbon (never throw away a good ribbon!).
You Don’t Have to be Perfect
Lastly, keep in mind that you don’t have to be perfect. We all want to do our best for the environment, but there are times when it isn’t possible. The holiday season is all about spending time with our friends and family, creating memories, and savoring each moment –– if you’re able to do that in a sustainable way, that’s wonderful. But, if not, just remember that you can resume your sustainable ways in the new year –– and that’s okay.
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What is Organic Cotton?
By: Heather Bien We’re all trying to be better stewards of Mother Earth. From recycling to upcycling and eating conscientiously to dressing mindfully, our choices affect the planet. So choosing organic cotton clothing seems like an easy decision, right? Not so fast! As with all sustainable choices, it’s important to take a moment to learn a bit more about why organic cotton might win over conventional cotton—and what makes these two materials different in the first place. Read on if you’re interested in learning about organic cotton and whether it’s the best choice for you and the environment. Conventional cotton Before we get into debating modern cotton farming techniques, let’s get familiar with the plant we’re talking about: cotton. It’s soft, durable, and probably on your body right now. But what else do you really know about cotton? Here are the basics: Cotton comes from the cotton plant – The cotton plant is a warm-season woody perennial shrub from the genus Gossypium and the family Malvaceae. Cotton fabric is made from the plant’s fibrous seed-hair (which is also called a cotton boll). Cotton is one of the top agricultural crops – Traditional cotton is the most widespread and profitable non-food crop in the world. Although the plant is capable of growing in any warm-weather climate, India and China are now the top producers of cotton globally. Cotton is thirsty – A normal cotton plant requires 10 gallons of water to reach peak potential. That doesn’t sound so bad, but multiplying it outward, that means it takes about 5,000 gallons of water to produce just 2.2 pounds of cotton fabric. Pests think it’s delicious – Not only is cotton thirsty, but it’s prone to pest infestations from bollworms, weevils, aphids, stink bugs, thrips, and spider mites. In order to combat these common pests, conventional cotton is routinely sprayed with a veritable salad-dressing of pesticides, many of which can remain in the soil and water supply for years afterward. Cotton harvesting requires defoliation – In order to quickly and efficiently harvest cotton, many commercial growers use chemical defoliants to strip the leaves from the cotton plant prior to harvesting the bolls. Like pesticides, these chemicals remain in the environment and on the cotton itself. Is organic cotton better? All of those cotton factoids point pretty compellingly to buying and wearing organic cotton fabric. But first, it’s important to understand what sets this organic alternative apart. Why exactly is “organic” cotton anyway? You might associate the word organic with your healthy fruits and veggies, but it’s not always clear what this term means when it comes to cotton. For many years, there was not a standard definition, but today, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) require that any cotton product labeled “organic” meet the following criteria: Made with fibers from USDA-certified organic crops Third-party certified (ie., through the Global Organic Textile Standard) under the National Organic Program standards Has a specific percentage of organic material (depending on the crop) But this definition is a little circular, so we need also to define USDA-certified organic crops. According to the USDA, organic crop standards are defined as follows: Land must have had no prohibited substances applied to it for at least three years before the harvest of an organic crop. Soil fertility and crop nutrients will be managed through tillage and cultivation practices, crop rotations, and cover crops. These can be supplemented with animal and crop waste materials and allowed synthetic materials. Crop pests, weeds, and diseases will be controlled primarily through management practices, including physical, mechanical, and biological controls. When these practices are not sufficient, a biological, botanical, or synthetic substance approved for use on the National List may be used. Operations must use organic seeds and other planting stock when available. The use of genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, and sewage sludge is prohibited. What is organic cotton? In short, it’s cotton that is farmed according to these practices and certified organic by the USDA. Why should you choose organic cotton? With fewer pesticides, fewer synthetic chemicals, and more thoughtful cultivation practices, organic cotton can certainly offer a more environmentally friendly choice when compared to regular cotton. Is organic cotton sustainable? Here are a few other reasons why organic cotton can be a better alternative for you and the earth: It’s better for our water resources – According to an analysis by the Textile Exchange, producing an organic cotton T-shirt requires 1,982 fewer gallons of water compared to a regular cotton T-shirt. Because organic cotton uses less chemicals, its production also releases fewer toxins into our aquatic ecosystems. It’s good for the soil (and our carbon footprint) – According to the Soil Association, the more natural cultivation practices and fewer pesticides used by organic cotton farmers can support healthier soil. That soil, in turn, can absorb more carbon from our atmosphere and help keep the planet healthy. It encourages biodiversity – Multiple studies have shown that organic farming practices can encourage more diversity among the animal species of our planet. Sustainability is sometimes in the eye of the beholder. But when it comes to plant-derived textiles, the ones which help us create a healthier world are always a better alternative. Explore the benefits of bamboo with Boody Whether you choose to purchase conventional or organic cotton clothing, the fact that you are shopping mindfully for yourself is a win for the environment. At Boody, we believe in bringing you quality, comfy, sustainable clothing basics that keep you feeling good about yourself and your personal impact on Mother Earth. From our sleepwear to our loungewear, women’s bamboo shirts to our underwear, sustainable and ethical are our touchstones. Our clothing is made of bamboo viscose, requiring less water than cotton while putting precious oxygen back into the environment. That just feels good, doesn’t it? Explore the bamboo benefits today, with Boody. Sources: Britannica. Cotton. https://www.britannica.com/topic/cotton-fibre-and-plant Cotton. The Story of Cotton - Where Cotton Grows. https://www.cotton.org/pubs/cottoncounts/story/where.cfm World Wildlife Federation. Cotton. https://www.worldwildlife.org/industries/cotton Textile Exchange. Quick Guide to Organic Cotton. https://textileexchange.org/quick-guide-to-organic-cotton Soil Association. What is organic cotton? https://www.soilassociation.org/take-action/organic-living/fashion-textiles/organic-cotton/ USDA. Conservation and Biological Diversity in Organic Production. https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2016/02/29/conservation-and-biological-diversity-organic-production About the Author: Heather Bien is a copywriter and writer based in Washington, DC. She works with retail, ecommerce, and creative brands on their website copy and digital presence, and her freelance writing has appeared on MyDomaine, Apartment Therapy, The Everygirl, and more. When she's not with laptop and coffee in hand, you'll find her planning her next weekend getaway, working on her budding green thumb, or scouting for her next great vintage find.