It’s that time again: the holiday shopping spree! Huge Black Friday sales in shops, followed by Cyber Monday on-line discounts on electronics; Green Monday on-line vacation deals in early December; Boxing Day deals (for those who mark that day) and, finally, post- Christmas clearance sales. Long store hours and tempting deals make it hard to resist the urge to shop – massively. Whether in-store or on-line, about 1/5 of annual retail sales are made between Black Friday and Christmas, and the numbers and average expenditures of shoppers are constantly growing.
Obviously, shopping boosts the economy, but mass consumption also carries a high price tag: pollution, exploitation of laborers, global warming, animal abuse and the depletion of natural resources. For example: mass-produced fashion still involves sweatshop labor in third world countries; enormous quantities of toxic chemicals used in manufacturing are dumped into streams and rivers – and we, who wear those fashionable items, end up paying the price with our health. The short life-span of these goods also results in tons of solid waste — and billions of tons of CO2 are released into the air throughout the entire process.
Progress on lessening the impact of manufacturing on our planet has been very slow in coming, and much remains to be done. Each of us can help in the effort to create a better world by making simple choices and using our spending power to promote goods that accelerate the transition. In this way, shopping can become part of the solution, instead of part of the problem. Our decisions can help lead us toward a cleaner, fairer and kinder world. That’s what Ethical Shopping is all about — buying products made in an ethical manner, by companies that don’t hurt or exploit people, animals or the environment. Here are some ideas that can help us make a difference:
- Shop locally and prefer small businesses that bolster the local economy
- Choose Fairtrade products – those made by people paid and treated fairly, working in suitable conditions
- Avoid products that have been tested on animals
- Seek out “Closed loop products” – those made from recycled waste and, themselves, recyclable
- Check the origin of goods and the raw materials used to manufacture them.
- Choose products that are environmentally-friendly or with minimal negative environmental impact (for example: those made using renewable energy, with fewer toxins, causing less waste etc.)
- Don’t discard second-hand items; donate or re-sell them, instead
- Prefer to give a service as a gift rather than an imported item; it’s usually of local origin
- Be creative and give a hand-made gift