Thoughts on America’s Busiest Shopping Week

Last Thursday was Thanksgiving, a time to meet with family and share a meal. It’s an odd holiday that no longer represents anything much historically, thoughts of relationships between native cultures and the population at large have been substituted for turkeys and shopping (a statement that surely can’t be denied with the ongoing strife happening at Standing Rock – Native Americans and protesters freezing and being sprayed with water cannons and rubber bullets while we all sit down to a hot meal. It’s been on my mind a lot, I couldn’t stay silent on a post about Thanksgiving without bring it up, I hope you couldn’t either.) After the turkey and potatoes have been consumed thoughts quickly jump to the deals the box stores and malls. No, let me correct myself, thoughts of the deals happen much earlier than the day of Thanksgiving as the advertisements flood television, newspapers, and the internet weeks before Black Friday.

Now, I’ll admit it, I like a bargain. As my Mom likes to remind me, I am cheap, and there’s a reason for my cheap behaviors beyond trying to keep my savings account as it is. One of my primary reasons for obtaining my clothing via hand me downs and second hand shops is that I have come to disagree with mass consumption because of the harm it does to people working in factories far away as well as the land that surrounds them. So while I can understand why people get excited for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I try my best to refrain from buying unnecessary items, no matter how good the door buster.

Personally I have primarily acquired my clothing from clothing swaps, friends, and thrift stores for the past 2+ years. The last time I went shopping at a mall for fun was the summer of 2014, which was a major change of habit for me; shopping used to be one of my hobbies of choice. I’d go out, find a deal that I may or may not have needed, and go home to call my sister to tell her about it. It’s how we used to bond. With time and awareness however our phone calls about our recent buys have switched from bragging about a good deal found at the mall to telling one another of a new item that was Made in America, fair trade, bought second hand, or made locally. We’re ethical shoppers now.

The change wasn’t easy and I don’t write this in a self righteous way. My point here is that we as Americans are consuming far more than we need to. The cost of our purchases are low to us monetarily, but high to those who produce them in terms of their health, general well being, and to the degradation of their waters, air, and land. And even though the products are produced and assembled far away, an environmental cost is incurred to us  in terms of CO2 emitted in the atmosphere in production and shipping, and then there’s the wonder of what to do with all of the things that we had purchased in the past, things that no longer give us a shopper’s high, they either take up space in our homes unused or get sent to the landfill –  out of sight out, of mind.

Let me stress again that I am not trying to preach that shopping and consuming is entirely bad, but rather I wish to convey that it is completely possible to limit consumption and in doing so to become a conscious consumer. Seek out companies and products that are made of natural materials that are safe to the earth and to our bodies. Support items made in your country or better yet in your local area (helping out the economy as you shop, not just massive corporations that produce their products in unethical ways.) Learn to live with less, it takes time but is doable. I haven’t conventionally shopped in two years, but I still have a closet full of clothes and never struggle with what to wear, I have given up concerning myself with trends and sales, but I am so much happier for it.

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As you check off your Christmas shopping lists in the coming weeks give consideration as to whether there is a better way (and there always is.) Shop local, shop small. Show your love in other ways than monetarily, I don’t know when Christmas morphed from a time of religious celebration and being with loved ones to showing we care with our credit cards, but it feels as if it has. It will take time and dedication to cut back on consuming and to shop mindfully, but after some time it will become your new norm.

How are you and your family ethically sharing love for one another this holiday season?

Ethical Shopping this Holiday Season

We’re all guilty of letting time slip buy and having to quickly grab something for someone as a gift during the busy holiday season. This year may you take your time, start early, and shift from mindless consumption to being a little more conscious of the sources of what you buy as well as where it comes from, how it was made, and who made it.

Do your research and look for craft shows, privately owned boutiques, or shop ethically online. You can opt for buying from a small producer made in your area or find a big name company that functions ethically.

Top Reasons Why Ethical Shopping is Much Better Than Mindless Consumerism:

  • Support Local – Imagine if most everyone supported a local artisan by gifting from them rather than a piece of plastic something-or-other bought at any old box store, it would be amazing. The artisan would be financially supported and continue their work, the gift giver could smile knowing they’ve spent their money well, and the receiver would get something unique to enjoy.
  • Good for the Earth – You have control over what products you support. Opt for natural, handmade products instead of off the shelf generic. Some examples are soaps, candles, beauty products, baked goods, and more. You’ll bypass the unpronounceable additives for a more natural product. You can of course shop online at Etsy or try Amazon’s new line Handmade if you don’t have local crafted goods near you.

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  • Less Packaging – Take your reusable bags when shopping markets or shops and pass on the plastic. Be thoughtful about any packaging, politely decline boxes and plastic containers if they can be avoided and aren’t necessary in keeping the product safe from damage. When wrapping gifts, use boxes from your recycling and newspaper as wrapping. You might even find companies that are consciously packaging.
  • Support Ethical Work – Seek out local or commercial companies that treat their labor fairly. Find a slow fashion producer, buy fair trade products, and look for companies who give back to both their employes and the land and oceans, like Teva who runs a project called A PAIR FOR A FOOT, for every pair of shoes it sells the company commits to cleaning a linear foot of shoreline.

Have fun shopping ethically, and share your finds with friends and family to encourage them to do the same. We have power as consumers to support fair, ethical, and environmental practices. What ethical goodies have you found near you?


*Here are two events happening in Busan where you can purchase ethical gifts:

  • Holiday Trunk Show, Nov 22 4PM (Slow Fashion)
  • BIWA Christmas Charity Bazaar, Dec 5 10AM-4PM

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