Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Ethical Options for the Holidays

Although we have not even made it to Thanksgiving yet, since we have gotten past Halloween, retailers and companies now have the right to advertise for Christmas and winter holidays. I have always been moderately terrible at picking out gifts for friends/significant others/members of my family. I always second-guess what I get for them... even though I really know that it is the thought that counts.

     Anyways, I am hoping to do something a bit different this year:
I would like to either make the gifts that I get people or buy them from ethical companies. I would also like to make the point of educating the people who receive these gifts as to why they can be considered ethical.

      Recently, I have begun to think a lot about being a conscious and ethical consumer. Most of the time, we walk into the mall and find a $22 shirt, and all we know about it is the price and that it was made in Bangladesh. We know nothing about the people who made the blouse or how they were treated, if the blouse was made in a sweatshop (most likely), where the raw materials came from and if they were harvested/collected in an ethical manner.

     I have found it to be incredibly difficult to be a completely ethical consumer in the modern world. It takes a lot of effort to find out the ethical policies of brands and companies, and barely any companies can truly guarantee if their employees around the world are treated correctly. Also, the companies that stress how ethical their products are usually seem out of my price range.

     It seems to be a trade off: Either buy ethical products and break the bank, or continue to be a mindless consumer and not take into consideration the work that has gone into that pair of leggings you are buying.

Here are a few starter ideas for this up-coming holiday season that hopefully won't break the bank:
  1.  Fair trade coffee/chocolate- This can be found in most grocery stores
  2. WEWood watches- These wooden watches look great and are Eco-friendly. The wood is chemical free, biodegradable, and very unique.
  3. LUSH Cosmetics- These products smell heavenly, and the company works towards several different causes, as can be seen on their Ethical Campaigns page
  4. Smartwool socks- If you have never owned a pair of Smartwool socks, then you have not lived. These are like the royalty of all wool socks. Also, the Merino sheep whose wool is used are treated well and so are the wool growers and cleaners.
  5. Zara, Gap, and H&M- Each of these brands have a pretty good track record in regards to ethical production. I was able to frequent Zara while living in Madrid, and it was a dream.
  6. Ten Thousand Villages-  I grew up visiting these stores across the country and what I find never fails to impress me. Explore some handmade gifts here 
  7. Oxfam - This organization offers tons of fair trade gifts, from ornaments to home goods.
  8. Heifer International- This organization donates an animal to a family in need. You can donate in the name of a friend or family member and help improve the lives of people around the world. For more information, click here
  9. Patagonia- This company (sometimes called "Pata-gucci," by some of my friends) prides itself on being a "responsible company," as it takes environmental issues and workplace conditions into consideration.
  10. Hit up the thrift shop- Lightly used clothes, books, and home decor at low low low prices- never underestimate the power of your local thrift shop.
     These are just a few examples of ethical options for gifts for the holiday season. Perhaps these may help you to not only think of the friends and family members you are giving the gifts to, but also the people who helped make those gifts.

     Do you know of any other ethical brands or products that would make great gifts? Feel free to leave a comment below.

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