Since I’ve become interested in conscious consumerism, I’ve been reading quite a few blog posts and articles about how difficult this time of year can be because of gifts, whether you are a minimalist and do not want additional things or a zero waster who does not want the additional packaging or an ethical consumer who cares from where his or her clothing came. Well, I’ve always been of the camp to be gracious about gifts because someone spent their time, thought, and money on you, but I do understand the dilemma. So I’ve compiled a list that I hope is helpful for conscious consumers and those giving to said conscious consumers! I organized these ideas into two different groups, but of course
Give an Experience Gift
I love these types of gifts because while I won’t deny that material things are nice to have, memories, I believe, are what we cherish the most. I also like experience gifts because they are also an opportunity to find local things to do, and we all know how I feel about supporting local businesses and the economy. This could encompass a number of things such as sporting events, concert tickets, yoga classes, sewing classes, a spa day, and performing arts tickets in musical theatre, plays, dance, opera, orchestra, comedy and the like. The possibilities are endless.
Donate to a Cause or Organization in Their Name
Maybe you have a friend who is an activist and you already know a specific organization to support. Or maybe you just know your friend is passionate about something like environmentalism or cancer research or even history. I really liked this list from Jezebel.com for organizations to support that fit under the political umbrella, but you can use Google to find literally anything. Don’t forget there are also local options for this as well, such as local historic societies or animal shelters.
I think gifts in a jar are completely underrated. Who doesn’t love home cooked food? And how much better is home cooked food when you didn’t even have to put in any effort? You can get mason jars or if you are like me, use one of the twenty pasta you save and reuse. You can make cookie mixes, brownie mixes, soup mixes … Pinterest has you covered. If you are a million times craftier than I, you can even go for the gold and make a candle.
Ethical Consumer Friendly
Buy Fair Trade
This video from Fair Trade USA describes Fair Trade and its impact much better than I can, but essentially Fair Trade means the laborers are being paid a livable wage with benefits. Fair Trade programs also focus on sustainability, preservation of cultural traditions, and giving back to the community.
The most common Fair Trade items you can buy are coffee, chocolate, and sugar, but don’t discount clothing as well! Many aren’t Fair Trade certified specifically, but you can find clothing with certifications that ensure fair wages and befefits such as the Global Organic Textile Standard and Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) For basics such as tanks, tees, and leggings, I really like PACT Apparel for their affordability, versatility, and recycled paper only packaging. For trendier attire there is Threads for Thought. You can also find both of these brands at Whole Foods. Now if you are looking for more high end clothing, Synergy, Mata Traders, and People Tree are where it’s at. And the great part about all of these companies is that unlike many fast fashion brands, their clothing is made to last.
In terms of more home related gifts, the two stores I think offer the widest variety are Ten Thousand Villages and The Little Market. Ten Thousand Villages has a humungous online inventory and is also the only Fair Trade store I know that has multiple locations. I have managed to stumble upon two accidentally. What I like about The Little Market, besides the fact that its co-founded by Lauren Conrad (yes, I watched Laguna Beach and The Hills), is that they have Hanukkah gifts and decor as well!
Fair Trade clothing is definitely easier to purchase online, but if you like to buy your gifts in person, check out Fair Trade Federation’s store locator to find a Fair Trade store near you.
Buy Cruelty-Free Cosmetics
When you really look into it, a crazy amount of things go into cruelty-free certifications. But in this technology heavy day and age it is easier than ever to shop cruelty free. Leaping Bunny and PETA are the biggest cruelty-free certifications out there (you’ve probably seen the bunny icons). I prefer Leaping Bunny just because I find their website easier to navigate. They have an entire list of cruelty-free brands with their certification as well as an app that allows you to scan a product and to find out if a product is cruelty-free. How easy is that? If you are buying a gift for someone who is vegan, I suggest cross referencing Leaping Bunny and Logical Harmony’s list because certain things can be cruelty-free but not vegan (i.e. anything with beeswax or honey).
My favorite cruely-free cosmetic brands happen to be Pacifica (which is also vegan) and Shea Moisture because they are both affordable green beauty brands. Pacifica is also a vegan brand and focuses on keeping as much of its manufacturing in the US and keeping the packaging environmentally friendly. Shea Moisture is definitely more known for its hair products but has an ever growing variety of cosmetics that stick with the company’s cruelty-free, ethically traded, sustainable, and synthetic free values. If you are going extremely budget conscious, I recommend e.l.f. The products are so cheap, it’s insane, but the value for the price you pay is astounding. You can find them at Target and get some pretty hefty kits this time of year.
When all else fails, plan a day to go to your local downtown or main street and just roam. Almost everything you will find will get a check in at least one ethically made box, and your gift will be unique and benefit your local economy, shop keepers, and artisans. For example, I like buying locally made spa goodies like sugar scrubs and lotions from a holistic store near me called Full Heart Soulutions.
But What About Wrapping Paper?
So, wrapping paper can be a little controversial, so here are my suggestions. Just go without, reuse old newspapers or paper bags from grocery stores, check your local thrift store (mine often times has bags of people’s unfished wrapping paper rolls, but maybe mine is just awesome), or use Fair Trade or artisan made wrapping paper.
I hope this list shows how easy it really can be to shop consciously during the holiday season and that gift giving does not have to be stressful or detrimental to yours or your receivers ethics!