The Holiday Spending Cycle
The holiday season is upon us, but it has not arrived alone. Once again, it is accompanied by the socially embraced ritual of utterly unmitigated spending. And while we all know that spending drives the economic train, we rarely consider the negative impacts of our shopping habits; both on our environment, as well as our culture as a whole.
Many people equate the dollars we spend with votes, a simple analogy that helps people understand that the more money you give to a company, the more you are supporting not only their products, but their ethics as well. How they treat their employees, whether or not they use sweat shop labour, or outsource manufacturing to foreign countries; with every dollar you spend, you are voting for their practices.
The biggest problem with the state of things is that even if you can see the problem, it’s difficult to break away from the cycle, because it has been so normalized.
George Monbiot wrote a hard hitting article in 2012 that demands readers take a hard look at the reasons behind their compulsive spending. Below is a snippet:
“Forests are felled to make “personalised heart-shaped wooden cheese board sets”. Rivers are poisoned to manufacture talking fish. This is pathological consumption: a world-consuming epidemic of collective madness, rendered so normal by advertising and the media that we scarcely notice what has happened to us.”
So what can we do? Simply stating that we won’t buy things for Christmas is idealistic, but perhaps unrealistic for many people who still want to buy gifts for their loved ones.
Instead of damning the institution of gift giving, how about moving your voting dollars to companies you want to support? Keep that coveted economic growth in your own city, province/state, or country, and keep your carbon trail as small as possible.
Here are some of our ideas to help you buy local for everyone on your list:
Clothing – Check your city’s downtown core for small, locally owned, non-chain clothing stores. If you like larger, well known brands, try to find ones that manufacture their products in your own country.
Christmas Ornaments – Does your city have a local art gallery? Or an artisan studio tour? Handmade ornaments add a very personal touch to your gift. Google ‘glass blowers’ with the name of your city to find stunning glass balls for your tree.
Jewelry – Craft markets are a great place to meet jewelers working with any number of unique materials. And of course, you could contact your local, reputable piercing shop and see who makes their gold jewelry. (All of ours is made about 10 minutes away from our shop. We love Alchemy Adornment.)
Baby Stuff – One again, craft markets can provide unique handmade items from clothing, to toys, and beyond. There are even services that clean cloth diapers for the same or less then you would pay for disposables.
Music – For artists that everyone knows, buying music online reduces the environmental impact (bonus points for buying direct from the artist’s website). For artists that have yet to discovered, try open mic nights at your local coffee shop or bar, many artists carry CD’s, sometimes you’ll even get lucky and find something with hand drawn art on the cover.
Coffee – To satisfy the caffeine addicts in your life, check if any of the locally owned coffee shops are roasting their own coffee beans.
Alcohol – Craft breweries, wineries, and distilleries are growing in popularity. Instead of that big label brand, why not treat your friends to something unique and made right around the corner?
Electronics – This is a tough one. Even small business tend to stock their shelves with products manufactured overseas, because that is where the majority of electronic items are made. (See below for second hand solutions)
Books – Small, non-chain book stores are few and far between these days, but they still exist. (Bonus points if you choose books written by local authors.)
Don’t be afraid to think pre-owned.
Not everyone is comfortable wearing someone else’s clothes or shoes, but what about books, electronics, and household decor? These items may come from big box stores, but you can still support local book and thrift stores by giving them a second life.
Live it up.
Finally, the last thing on our list is memories. Instead of buying any physical item at all, why not buy your loved ones an experience that they’ll remember for a lifetime? Concert tickets, cooking classes, wine tasting, massages, yoga classes, scuba diving, rock climbing, sailing, maybe even a new tattoo?
The options are endless, and sometimes the best gift of all is the one that you can share together. Someone needs to help them soak in that day at the spa.