UConn Office of Environmental Policy

Promoting sustainability at UConn


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Environmentally and Socially Conscious Holiday Shopping

by OEP intern Emily Udal

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, we’ve started worrying about our holiday shopping. As a consumer, it’s important to be conscious of the impacts your purchases make – not just to the gift recipient, but also to the people who create the product. Take a break from studying and take a look at the variety of tote bags and other items you can chose from that support environmental and social good.

Recycled Canvas Totes from Etsy

Reduce your carbon footprint when you go grocery shopping. By remembering to bring a tote to carry your items, you can reduce the amount of paper and plastic bags, which have detrimental impacts on the environment.  About 1 million plastic bags are used every minute, with the average family accumulating 60 plastic bags in only four trips to the grocery store. The sad reality of plastic bag consumption is that plastic bags aren’t biodegradable, they photo-degrade, meaning the materials break down to smaller fragments which readily soak up toxins which then contaminate the soil, waterways and harm marine life. Greenpeace estimates that at least 267 marine species are known to have suffered from getting entangled in or ingesting marine debris. So next time you’re considering using a plastic bag, take the extra step to use your reusable tote bag to prevent the amount of plastic bag waste.

Paisley Magic on Etsy

FEED Guatemala Tote Bag

FEED began in 2006 to benefit the United Nations World Food Program’s School Feeding program. To date, FEED has been able to raise enough money through the sale of products to provide over 60 million school meals to children around the world through the WFP. The FEED Foundation is dedicated to supporting programs and organizations that are working to fight hunger and eliminate malnutrition throughout the world. FEED products are used with environmentally friendly and artisan-made materials, along with fair-labor production. The FEED Guatemala Bag will provide 15 school meals. The bag is handmade in Guatemala by the Collaborative Group, a non-profit organization that empowers artisans around the world using traditional Ikat fabrics.

FEED Guatamala Products

Recycled Sari Clutch by People Tree

People Tree, founded in 2001, has been a pioneer in environmentally sustainable fashion, particularly for their support of Fair Trade practices. The company, also registered by the World Fair Trade Organization, has worked with artisans in developing countries to work with local communities to sell handcrafted goods. People Tree works closely with farmers on organic cotton farming, and aims to use recycled materials and dyes that are free from harmful chemicals. Purchasing an item from People Tree helps double the income of the local artisan workers that helps foster economic development in their communities.

Recycled Sari Clutch

Apple & Bee Organic Cotton Canvas Tote

 Apple and Bee is an Australian-owned, carbon neutral business that started The Bee Foundation, a non-profit organization to raise awareness of Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon where a honey bee colony will die off, likely due to fertilizers. This has widespread implications for the US economy because of its effects on agriculture. Honeybees help support a large portion of the world’s food crops and the agricultural economy, and pollinate about one-third of crop species in the United States. According to the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, bee pollination is responsible for more than $15 billion in increased crop value each year. Commercial production of many specialty crops like almonds, berries, fruits and vegetables are also heavily dependent on honey bee pollination. You can help support research on Colony Collapse Disorder through Apple and Bee, who donate part of their profits to The Bee Foundation.

Apple and Bee EcoTotes

Econscious 100% Organic Cotton Boat Totes

Econscious supports sustainable apparel by sourcing organic and sustainable fibers. The company supports social equity, ecological sustainability, and corporate responsibility by using a market-based approach to work closely with their supply chain to eliminate the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and other harmful chemicals. The Organic Trade Association classifies organic cotton to be grown without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. The methods for growing organic cotton have a low impact on the environment and prohibit the use of genetically engineered seed for organic farming.  On the contrary, growing conventional cotton requires the use of pesticides, which has huge environmental impacts as well as health risks for those working around it. Purchasing organic cotton products helps support and expands the market for cotton grown without the harmful agricultural inputs, benefiting the environment and human health.

Econscious Bags


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Greening up the Holidays

eco-friendly wrapped presents

The holidays are always a great time of year when you get to have time off from school, spend time with your family and decorate the house to spread holiday cheer.   Many people feel generous during the holiday season and are compelled to donate money or food to charitable organizations or even to lend a hand and volunteer.  While all this is great, there is one thing that we forget to consider.   Unfortunately most people neglect to think about the environment during the holiday season.   However there are plenty of ways you can green up your holiday, check out these tips that range from travel, to trees, to decorations:

  • If you’re sending presents to distant relatives, you can package them in old brown paper grocery bags instead of buying new shipping paper
  • Get creative with your wrapping!  You can wrap presents with a variety of things including old calendars, maps, sheet music, posters, wallpaper scraps, comics etc.  These wrapping ideas not only save paper, but they’re pretty interesting and unique.
  • For a fun edible decoration you can sting popcorn, cranberries or other fruits to hang around the house and when it’s time to take down the decorations you can eat them, compost them, or give them to the birds
  • It’s always a great idea to save and reuse whatever you have from previous holidays, you can reuse old gift bags and boxes or reuse old decorations.  You can even regift a gift!  If you’ve ever gotten something you don’t like or never used, think of someone who would appreciate the gift and give it to them (this saves you money and cleans up a little of that household clutter!)
  • When a friend or family member says they “don’t want more stuff,” take them seriously!
  • Often times just being with someone is better than getting a present from them, so instead of buying someone a present, take them out to dinner, a movie, or whatever you like to do best.
  • If you can’t avoid traveling long distances to spend the holiday with your family, consider buying carbon offsets to counteract negative impacts of your flight or drive.

For more tips visit these websites to make your holiday as green as possible!

Everyday Green Blog

5 Big Ways to Green Up Your Holidays

Green Holiday Tips and Ideas