Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, November 21, 2022


Kelley Dennings, (919) 355-8102,

New Survey: 90% of Americans Want Less Materialistic Holidays

TUCSON, Ariz.— A new national survey by the Center for Biological Diversity found that 90% of Americans wish the holiday season was less materialistic and 87% believe the holidays should be more about family and caring for others, not giving and receiving gifts. The paid, national random online survey of over 900 people was conducted between Sept. 27 and Oct. 17, 2022.

“It’s time to rethink holiday gift giving,” said Kelley Dennings, a campaigner at the Center. “Most people would rather spend time with friends and family than receive piles of stuff wrapped up in fossil fuels, habitat loss and other environmental harms.”

The survey also found that 84% of Americans think the acts of giving and receiving gifts are awarded too much importance during the holiday season. This research comes as retailers are pushing Black Friday deals to entice people to splurge on material gifts despite a strained economy.

The practice of giving material gifts over the holidays takes a hefty toll on the environment. A 2021 analysis by the Center found that Americans generate 23% more waste in December than in other months of the year. Studies have found that nearly a third of people who received a gift they didn’t like threw it in the trash. And many unwanted gifts that are returned to the store end up in the landfill.

Experts have found that while more stuff doesn’t buy happiness, experiences can. Experiential gifts like concert tickets, cooking a homecooked meal for a friend or going on a camping trip can provide long-lasting memories without being wasteful.

Giving the gift of experiences can also save greenhouse gas emissions and prevent pollution. For example, buying a plush toy for the wildlife lover in your life comes with more greenhouse gas emissions than driving 100 miles round-trip to visit a wildlife refuge. Stuffed animals also come with the price of pollution associated with plastic production, packaging and shipping.

“Giving experiential or secondhand gifts can save money, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and be even more exciting and unique than something found in a big box store,” said Dennings. “It’s not too late to change holiday traditions in ways that respect the planet and wildlife.”

Secondhand shopping helps avoid the extraction, production and pollution of manufacturing and packaging new items. According to ThredUP, secondhand shopping is expected to keep growing in popularity and more than two-thirds of people say they’re open to receiving secondhand gifts.

The Center has created a gift guide of alternative gift ideas and a free customizable gift wish list that makes it easy to ask for presents with a minimal environmental footprint.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

center locations