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Guilt-Free Holiday Shopping

12/14/2010 12:05:00 AM

Tags: gifts, products, green gifts, shopping

Thought about your holiday shopping yet? Really thought about it?

Before you face the crowds at the mall, it pays to stop a minute and review your good green shopping habits. When picking out gifts—preferably in a local establishment—keep the following questions in mind.

1. What is it made from?
• Do you know all the materials used in its manufacture?
• Is it made from natural, replenishable or recycled  materials?
• Does it outgas harmful chemicals?
• Is it a potential allergen or carcinogen?

2. How was it manufactured?
• Did its manufacture cause pollution?
• Who made it and under what conditions?
• Were the workers or artisans paid and treated fairly?
• Does the wholesaler or importer buy directly from artisans?

3. Where was it made?
• Did it travel less than 500 miles to get to you?
• Is there a locally made alternative?

4. How is the item maintained and operated?
• Does it require continual energy, batteries or replacement parts?
• Is it durable?
• Can it be repaired easily?

5. What will happen to the item once you're done with it?
• Can it be disassembled, recycled, reused or composted?

Equita storefront 
Shop for your Christmas gifts at local retailers and keep in mind the product's source, materials, required maintenance and lifespan. If you can't shop at local retailers, check out Greenopia's list of sustainable retailers. Photo Courtesy Equita. 

As a mother of teenagers, I know it’s not always possible to find the latest techno-gadget in a locally owned store—and sometimes you just have to compromise. If you’re in the market for a Kinekt (which my teenager has requested and I just learned are somewhat scarce this season), check out Greenopia’s ranking of large retailers based on sustainability practices. Sweden-based Ikea tops the list with a perfect score. Walmart, Best Buy, and Office Depot were the next greenest major retailers, each receiving 2 out of 4 possible points. Costco, Lowe's, Staples and Target each received one point. At the bottom, earning zero points, were Home Depot, Kmart, Meijer, Sears, Toys 'R' Us and Walgreens.

'We encourage consumers to do their holiday shopping at retailers that are making a strong effort to be environmentally-conscious,' said Greenopia's founder Gay Browne in a statement. 'Many consumers don't realize that there can be huge environmental differences between the various big box retailers.'

The ratings, based largely on data from the companies themselves, looks at the retail chains’ use of renewable energy, transportation, materials, consumer take-back programs and green building initiatives.

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