The Secret Power of Shopping

The Secret Power of Shopping

As we come to the close of another trying year, we are considering how to make this a special time for loved ones. It’s no secret that we live in a hyped-up consumer culture that focuses on consuming more. At the same time, reducing consumption can have a big positive effect on the planet. It can also help us declutter to a more joyful life. What is one to do?

Recognize the secret power of shopping.

Your purchases have a secret power. How you spend your money can drive positive changes. While we are narrowly viewed and treated as consumers, we are much more.  We are global citizens. Our actions make a difference.  

Focus on gifts that bring joy and make the world better.

Let’s make some impactful changes to shopping for both your loved ones and the planet.  It can be a treasure hunt. With a keen eye, embark on the search for that special gift for someone.  The gift that brings joy and makes the world better. Here are some ways to get started.

Shop Green Companies.

Buy your gifts from companies with strong sustainability, social, and high-quality products. There are many companies making real strides in reducing waste, pollution, and harmful chemicals in products. Buying a gift from one of these companies is a wonderful way to introduce a loved one or friend to a great product they have not considered before. It can be a product with no single-use plastic and is chemical-free and made or sold by a business that treats its employees well. Go beyond “product advertising” to look under the covers. You need to be careful of  “greenwashing” (misleading claims by companies that their products or business are environmentally friendly).

Here’s our suggested list to get started.

When you shop at these companies, you join others who drive companies to more sustainable and equitable business practices. 

  • Reduce plastic in our waterways with a gift from For every bracelet or other gift you purchase, a pound of plastic is being removed from a waterway.
  • Plant more trees with a gift from For each purchase of a t-shirt or socks, ten trees are planted.
  • Reuse and recycle books with a gift from They have recycled and reused over 370 million books.
  • Chocolate with a reduced footprint with a gift from They are focused on sustainable practices and treating farmers well.
  • Sustainable Paper with a gift for the write from They have unique and sustainable paper products such as seed paper.
  • Fairtrade and environmentally conscience nuts and dried fruit for a healthy treat from
  • Sustainably grown coffee with a gift from or These are two of the many B-Corporations where you can have a cup of coffee and peace of mind.
  • Apparel and doing good – some options here are, and

Both the directory of B-Corporations from B-Labs and the directory of social enterprises from the Social Enterprise Alliance are powerful tools to change the way that we spend our money. You’ll also find more companies that care for people and the planet on our website under Stuff.  

Gift Experiences.

For many people, more stuff isn’t what they need. What can bring more joy is an experience. It could be dinner at a local farm-to-table restaurant, a museum membership, a sporting event ticket, or a gardening class at a botanical garden. Loving to learn and being social by nature, it only makes sense to give a gift of an experience to bring joy.

Experience Gift

When you gift an experience, you also support the local businesses and organizations that make a community vibrant.

Gifts of Nature.

It is a known fact that time in nature is good for us. So look for creative ways to share gifts of nature. Maybe you and your friend go for a “forest bath” in a nearby park. What about giving an annual pass to state or federal parks? Maybe gift a plant or a bird feeder to bring nature into the home? When you give a gift of nature, you support wellness and our parks and wildlife. 

Buy Second-Hand Goods.

One of the best ways to reduce waste is to shop thrift or second-hand. There is no need to put the extensive supply chain in motion to produce and ship a new product that will eventually be trashed. This treasure hunt approach will lead you to thrift stores, yard sales, vintage boutiques, online resale, and even sometimes trades with your neighbors. Once you have the item, you can clean it up and use your creativity to embellish it. When you gift a second-hand item, you are saving the planet and making a stand against our trash culture by giving something a second chance. 

Thrift Store
Give a Gift of Caring For Each Other.

In every community, people are struggling who need our help. Consider a donation to local charities that give toys to children, stock the local food bank, or help a local school. There are so many ways to support our communities. When you gift a donation that makes a difference for someone in your community, you are spreading joy. 

Support Local Businesses
Shop Local.

Every dollar you spend locally is the equivalent of $6 spent in the community. In your treasure hunt, seek out the local restaurant, shops, and businesses and spend your gift dollars there. When you shop locally, dollars grow in the community.

Wield your secret power.

Let your treasure hunt begin! The journey can be lots of fun. This year, shopping for and buying gifts does not need to be about more stuff.  Thoughtful gifting that is good for people and the planet is more rewarding for the giver and the receiver.  It makes the world a better place.

My Journey to a More Sustainable Lifestyle

My Journey to a More Sustainable Lifestyle

My journey to a more sustainable lifestyle started by realizing I have a lot to learn! Becoming aware that the way we live impacts the planet was a key first step.  As a Good Life Analyst for OPL, I have been lucky to lead a variety of research projects and have learned so much about our climate crisis. But all this information can be overwhelming. Where can I start to do my part?  How can I join with others to take action?


Recently I had the great opportunity to attend a lecture by Katharine K. Wilkinson, co-editor of the national bestseller, All We Can Save.

All We Can Save is an OPL recommended Read. Here is an insight from OPL’s review. “We understand that it is less of a battle and more of an awakening and healing. It is more about how we live — how we care for everything on our living planet.”

[Photo:  (L) Harriet Cook with Katharine Wilkinson (R)]

All We Can Save Book Cover
Katharine offered five guiding principles to living more sustainably.

Katharine’s message was a great primer on how to start that personal journey to awakening and healing, changing how we must live to protect all life on this planet.

First, “feel your feelings.” It is OK to be angry or frightened, or overwhelmed by the current state of affairs. But don’t let them be obstacles; let them inspire.

Next, she recommends “survey solutions.” Study and gain perspective on opportunities that exist to make an impact and heal.

Another great insight is to assess “your context.” Most of us at any given time operates in one of three different areas in our lives: the personal, the professional, or the public. Each of these contexts offers avenues for taking action.

I loved the next one, as I paraphrase: find and use your “Super Powers.” Driving by compassion, connection, creativity, and collaboration is powerful.

Finally, she emphasizes that “building community” is a necessary prerequisite for building a better world.  We are in this together. The movement is only as strong as we are as a collective force.

I hope you have time to read more from Katharine K. Wilkinson in All We Can Save and follow the great work of the non-profit, the All We Can Save Project.  As stated in the book’s introductory notes:

“We hope this book can be a spark of connecting, learning together, deepening our resolve, and joyously finding our places in the mighty ‘we’ that’s rising to secure a just and livable future.”

Harriet Cook

Harriet Cook is OPL’s Good Life Analyst and puts her expert data-crunching skills to work to share the true picture of human impact on the planet.  Learn more about Harriet.

Veggie-forward Party Menu for 8 People

Veggie-forward Party Menu for 8 People

At our recent OPL Summit, we had a three-course, veggie-forward potluck dinner for eight people, and it was a party for the senses. We used the Planetary Diet as our guide for the party menu and let each amateur chef chose a favorite recipe to share. The EAT-Lancet Commission created the Planetary Diet is an eating approach that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and plant proteins, such as beans and lentils. Meat, dairy, sugar, and starchy vegetables play a minor role on the plate.  To learn more, read our blog, Now is the Time to Adopt the Flexible and Healthy Planetary Diet.

Eight OPL staff members each made a dish, and the resulting Planetary Diet menu was inspiring. Of course, every meal is complemented by great conversation and a pleasing environment, and we had the perfect makings for a memorable dinner party!

OPL Dinner Guests
OPL DInner Spread

As an inspiration for your next gathering, we are happy to share our One Planet Life Summit Veggie-forward Potluck Recipes with you. Below are links to our recipes. We hope you try one, some, or all of these delicious recipes and let us know the result. Please share your stories and pictures with us in the comments section below. Bon appetit!

Mediterranean Pinwheels

Mediterranean Pinwheels

Mediterranean Pinwheels are an easy-to-make and delicious appetizer. Serve them at home or take them to your next potluck party.

Shane Crab Cakes

Shane's Crab Cakes with Capers and Cilantro

These crab cakes are mouth-watering delicious and fit into the Planetary Diet that’s good for you and the planet.

Vegetarian Eggplant Parmesan

Vegetarian Eggplant Parmesan

This dish is so flavorful you may find you like this vegetarian eggplant parmesan version better than the traditional recipe.

Kale Walnut Salad

Surprisingly Delicious Kale Walnut Salad

When you mix kale, apples, cranberries, and walnuts together you get a surprisingly delicious, double-helping worthy salad.

Spicy Corn Salad

Easy Spicy Corn Salad with Queso Fresco

This spicy corn salad with queso fresco is a perfect weeknight side dish. It is easy and adds just enough kick to enhance your meal.

Southern Broccoli Salad

Family Secret Southern Broccoli Salad

This southern broccoli salad has the perfect combination of flavor and crunch to be the meal or complement to an entree.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

It’s dessert and vegetables at the same time! This chocolate zucchini cake is moist and delicious and perfect for any occasion.

famous banana pudding

Magnolia Bakery's Famous Banana Pudding

This recipe for famous banana pudding is from the Magnolia Bakery cookbook. It’s a sweet and satisfying dessert.

OPL Plant-rich Recipes

Eating more fruits and vegetables is good for you and the planet.  Find more delicious OPL-recommended plant-rich recipes here.

Family Secret Southern Broccoli Salad

Family Secret Southern Broccoli Salad

This family secret southern broccoli salad has the perfect combination of flavor and crunch to be the meal or complement to an entree.

Serves: 2-4


5 cups of small broccoli florets (32-40 oz.)

1 cup mayonnaise (prefer Duke’s)

1 tbs cider vinegar

1/3 cup chopped onion

1/4 sugar

3/4 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup sunflower kernels (optional)

Real bacon bits (8 oz.)

Corn on the cob
    1. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil.  Add the broccoli and blanch until it is bright green and slightly softened (approximately 3 minutes).  Drain well and run under cold water to stop the cooking.  Drain again.
    2. In a mixing bowl, combine the mayonnaise, vinegar, onion, sugar, and dried cranberries.  Refrigerate for 1 hour, if possible.
    3. Just before serving, fold in the sunflower kernels and the bacon pieces. 
      Debbie Barton

      OPL Director of Operations Debbie Barton shares a favorite recipe.

      Learn more about Debbie.

      OPL Plant-rich Recipes

      Eating more fruits and vegetables is good for you and the planet.  Find more delicious OPL-recommended plant-rich recipes here.

      Magnolia Bakery’s Famous Banana Pudding

      Magnolia Bakery’s Famous Banana Pudding

      This recipe for famous banana pudding is from the Magnolia Bakery cookbook. It’s a sweet and satisfying dessert.

      Serves: 8-12


      1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

      1 1/2 cups ice-cold water

      1  3.4 oz. box of vanilla instant pudding mix

      3 cups heavy cream

      4 cups sliced, barely ripe bananas

      Corn on the cob
        1. In a large bowl, beat together the sweetened condensed milk and water until it is well combined — about 1 minute.  Add the pudding mix and beat well — about 2 minutes.  Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or overnight.  It is very important to allow the proper amount of time for the pudding mixture to set.  It will be watery if you don’t let it set up long enough.
        2. In a large bowl, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold the whipped cream into the pudding mixture until no streaks of pudding remain.
        3. This dessert can either be made in individual portions or in a large glass bowl or dish (we used a 9×13 dish).
        4. To assemble the dessert, arrange 1/3 of the Nilla wafers covering the bottom, overlapping if necessary. Next, layer 1/3 of the bananas, and 1/3 of the pudding mixture.  Repeat twice more, garnishing with additional wafers or wafer crumbs on the top layer.  Cover tightly and allow to chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours or up to 8 hours — no longer because the bananas will start to brown.
          Chef Lesley Dennison

          OPL Head of Product Development Lesley Dennison shares a favorite recipe.

          Learn more about Lesley.

          OPL Plant-rich Recipes

          Eating more fruits and vegetables is good for you and the planet.  Find more delicious OPL-recommended plant-rich recipes here.

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