Five Simple Ways to Shop with a Conscience This Holiday

Each year it seems we’re being hit by the holiday hype earlier and earlier. Though it’s pleasing to see how many people have embraced #GivingTuesday, we will continue to be bombarded with messages to buy, buy, buy right up until December 24.

In the past I’ve found myself stressed out, and even angry, about the commercialism of Christmas. Until I realized I was giving into the hype.

I don’t have to buy everyone the perfect gift. My kids forget about 90 percent of what they receive on Christmas morning approximately five minutes after opening the presents. And so do the adults in my family, for that matter.

Do you know what they remember? The thoughtful gifts with a story behind them. The Christmas tree ornament with recycled oxygen cylinders recovered from Mount Everest. The handmade scarves at the nonprofit around the corner from my house.

This year, I’m making it a point to shop more thoughtfully. Here are five simple ways I’m shopping with a conscience this holiday season.

1. Shopping Local

I am fortunate to live in a vibrant downtown community in Maine where local shopkeepers offer everything from handmade goods from local artisans to hard to find vinyl records. In one quick walk I can find well-made toys (that aren’t plastic), delicious local food items (Maine maple syrup and microbrews are especially popular), handmade ornaments and scarves, art supplies, unique antiques, trendy clothes, jewelry, music and more.

2. Buying Fair Trade

Whether it’s delectable coffee or unique handmade jewelry, fair trade products support farmers and craftspeople in developing countries with fair working conditions and opportunities to offer their goods to an international audience. I personally support fair trade companies like Jolica, 1000 Shillings and INDIGENOUS because their products are gorgeous, and you learn more about whom you are supporting with each purchase.

3. Considering the Gift’s Carbon Footprint

Sometimes the big box stores are the most convenient option, especially at the last minute. allows anyone to study up on the world’s largest companies’ impact on global climate. You can research things like carbon emissions and how transparent companies are about addressing climate concerns. Surprisingly, some of the companies I thought had bad reputations were making good strides while others made me think twice about purchasing their products.

4. Looking for Gifts That Give Back

In addition to fair trade, there are many other options for gifts that give back. Up to 50 percent of profits made from sales of (RED) products go to fight AIDS in Africa, for example. Save the Children gives you the option to adopt animals for families in developing nations so they can generate income. UncommonGoods supports talented makers all around the world while also donating to a chosen charity on behalf of the buyer. I’ve got my eye on this kidrobot.

5. Giving the Gift of Experiences

Some people can barely make their bill payments each month, so why should we put ourselves in further debt? A recent Huffington Post article suggests giving the gift of experiences such as quality time with a loved one. As a mom, I can attest to the fact that my kids really don’t need more “stuff.” I owe it to my family to turn off my devices and spend quality time with them. My kids will talk about the special road trip to Mom and Dad’s alma mater to see a big time college basketball game for years, but they’ll forget about a cheap toy in a couple of weeks.

How will you shop with a conscience this holiday season?

Image via Flickr user Alaina Marie

Julian Meehan

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