A Merry Little Thriftmas


Energy efficient tree lights, holiday cards printed on recycled paper, and re-purposed gift wrap are all great ideas when it comes to increasing sustainability this season, but if you’re truly looking for a green Christmas, it’s time to consider thrifted gifting. 

Americans will spend over 1 trillion dollars on presents this winter. That’s a lot of merchandise, a lot of packaging, a lot of global transport and a whole lot of resources wasted. And despite the fact that 77% of consumers expect to return gifts in the weeks after Christmas, consumers expect to buy more gifts in 2020 than they did in 2019, many citing a pick-me-up from pandemic life as a reason why they’re planning on spending more freely. All that new retail is definitely not a pick-me-up for the planet: 25 million tons of extra trash is tossed during the holiday season. Thankfully there’s a simple and effective solution to striking down a lot of this excess waste, and that’s shopping secondhand for gifts. 

Keeping a clothing item in the reuse economy reduces its water and carbon footprints by over 80%. The same can be said for toys, books, games and other giftables. Simply stated, creating something new is far more wasteful than using what already exists. Landfill space is spared and waterways are kept cleaner when items find a new home instead of being tossed out. 

But is it acceptable? 

Rest assured, the idea of secondhand gifting is gaining traction, especially among younger shoppers and families. A new survey from Mercari, a peer-to-peer selling platform, found that 61% of Americans were comfortable receiving a secondhand gift, and 49% of Americans under the age of 35 would consider gifting a pre-owned item. Many attribute the ability to “gift outside the box” as one of the main reasons for embracing this trend. Why be limited to items on retail shelves when so many original treasures are waiting to be discovered, and often at a discounted cost?

Melissa & Doug Bella Ballerina Puzzle and Dress Up Dolls

The reuse economy is expanding, providing shoppers with plenty of outlets for convenient secondhand shopping online. ThredUp, Kidizen, and Toycycle are popular sites for clothing and toys for babies and kids, with Toycycle being the most affordable of the bunch (and proudly offering a generous return policy, too!). Online sites generally have quick turnover of items, so start shopping early and check in often to find that perfect gift. Don’t forget to use a coupon code to save even more on your purchases; discounts are common during the months of November and December, and subscribing to email lists is a great way to stay in the loop on extra savings. 

Another quick tip for green-gifting holiday success? Consider gift cards. Most secondhand sites offer them, and they’re a perfect way to let the recipient choose items that suit them best, cutting down the chance for those inevitable returns. Surprising kids with a gift card not only gives them a fun, pick-it-yourself experience, but showcases the lesson of shopping sustainably while saving cash. Teaching kids how to spend less and protect more helps to ensure a brighter future for the planet. And that’s a gift worth celebrating. 

Erin Addiego is a lifelong thrifter, writer and mom to three living in the San Francisco Bay Area.


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