How to Shop Ethically This Christmas

HereÍs a guide to brands, online resources and retailers that are dedicated to helping you make ethical, environmentally responsible shopping choices.

BY KIM HUNT GLOBAL / CURRENT November 28, 2014

With Thanksgiving at an end and Christmas officially on the horizon, many of us are realizing something: We have less than 30 shopping days left to get all our Christmas gifts. Shoot.

Not all of us are like my dad (who literally shops year-round for Christmas/Birthday presents and then hoards them until the actual day). Instead we choose to wait until after Thanksgiving and go into a stress-induced shopping frenzy attempting to make sure we get gifts for everyone on our list, doing our best to make them “meaningful.”

I don’t know about you, but Christmas is a big deal to my family, and I love finding the perfect gift for people. From an antique camera for a friend who loves photography to a Doctor Who onesie for a Whovian expectant mother, I am a gift-giving fiend.

As I enter this season though, I’m looking for something else, too: Ethical gifts. Our purchases affect people around the world in different ways, and as Christians, it’s our responsibility to make sure that our impact is a positive and just one.

When we hear about factory collapses in Bangladesh killing hundreds of workers or unethical practices in clothing company supply chains, we should be incensed, but we should also be examining how we are complicit through our purchases. Human trafficking, unsafe working conditions and environmental degradation are all issues that should concern us, cause us to pause and examine our actions.

Being an ethical consumer is not an easy choice. It takes effort and resolve to make the conscious decision every day to buy ethically. But every day, the dollars we spend are a vote for the kind of world that we want.

I want to live in a world where people are paid a fair wage, not forced to work in unsafe conditions and are free to leave their employment situation if it is exploitative. I want the dollars that I spend to reflect that.

Here are some tips to get you started on your ethical shopping journey this Christmas.

Start Small

Take a look at your normal purchasing habits and choose one area to focus upon for ethical shopping. Maybe you’re looking at buying accessories for people as gifts. Check out Etsy for handmade goods that support individual people. It’s like a virtual bazaar where you can visit shops and learn about the individuals who make the items.

Or you can support companies that help employ marginalized women like Raven + Lily, or empower women in developing countries like Krochet Kids International. Overstock.com even has a fair trade section on their website with all sorts of amazing options, and they provide information about all of their artisans from around the world!

Are you looking for clothes? Check out Everlane. They are very transparent in their business practices and you can even take a virtual tour of the factory where each clothing/accessory is made. The TOMS Marketplace features a hand-selected collection of items made by companies that give back.

Need for something for children? Check out Bella Luna Toys where all the toys are natural, safe and encourage imagination.

How about electronics? The Ethical Electronics Guide made by Baptist World Aid is an extremely helpful resource, or FairPhone.com that makes devices with conflict-free minerals. But realize due to human trafficking violations, environmental exploitation and constant overconsumption that completely ethical electronics are so rare, you may even want to consider buying/giving less electronics, and getting the most use at of the ones you own.

For even more ideas on where to shop ethically for your Christmas gifts this year, you can also check out this Ethical Shopping Guide from the anti-poverty group, Micah Challenge.

Research the Places you Already Frequent

Some of the places you shop may have high ethical standards as it is: Places like Filson, who holds stewardship for their environment as a base tenet, or IKEA, who treats employees and the environment with respect. Even Nordstrom is making a significant effort to lead their field in ethical treatment of the environment and people.

You can check out your favorite stores on BetterWorldShopper.org (they have an app, too, if you want to check it on the go) where they grade companies A-F (just like in school) based upon 5 issues: human rights, environment, animal protection, community involvement and social justice. Shop Ethical! is an Australian ethical consumer guide, but also includes a lot of American brands. They have a ton of tips for being an ethical consumer and tools to help get your community involved.

Can’t find any information about your favorite store? Email them or ask to speak to a manager/owner. Ask them about their ethics policies. Ask them where they source their items. Ask them about their employee policies. Ask them if they recycle, are involved in community projects, or have programs that combat human rights violations. You might not get the answer you want, but you may learn something new that can inform your future shopping ventures.

Make Things Yourself

Between Pinterest, YouTube and Google, we have no excuses for not being able to figure out how to make/do things. You can learn how to crochet/knit, sew, make the perfect body scrub or even really yummy syrup for the food lover.

Make your mom a scarf, your dad some cufflinks out of old coins, or your significant other a piece of art to hang somewhere nice. If you really want to make it fun, invite people over and make it a party! Everyone has a creative side, and I’ve seen the fellas get just as into this sort of thing as the ladies, so don’t exclude them!

Your Purchases Matter

With every single purchase you make, you’re saying that you support the practices and ideals of the company from which you purchase. The dollars we spend are some of the most important votes we have in this world. How are you going to vote this Christmas?

This article was originally posted on micahchallengeusa.org

KIM HUNT

is an activist and writer living in Portland, Oregon.

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