From reusable bags and bottles (fair trade of course to organically grown just about everything! With a few small changes to everyday purchase decisions, youíre on your way to making a long term difference.
The holiday season is here again. All that gift giving, merrymaking and good old holiday cheer has a secret dark side, and here it isÖthe holidays are wasteful. Since our culture is on throwaway overload in lean times, the holiday statistics will make you cringe! And itís pretty serious. The purchase decisions we make this holiday season and year-round have consequences that extend far beyond the mall or boutique. Every choice has a consequence. Items are either sustainably produced or not, workers are either fairly paid, or drastically underpaid (so the department store can offer the lowest price), and the environmental implications of product production and disposal are either benign or harmful. Thatís the bad news. Lucky for us, itís not too late to make changes that can protect the environment, support sustainable business practices and can actually help to strengthen communities if we buy fair trade.
So how to get there from here? It usually starts a single decision, maybe making the switch from paper or plastic to BYOB, and the good feeling one gets by becoming a part of the solution. It may continue from there to (not necessarily in this order) switching to recycled paper products, organic produce, reusable drinking bottles, and a Prius, until green living just becomes a way of life. Thus the socially conscious shopper is born. Granted, this could take years, but in the short-term, I challenge you to take the plunge and try socially conscious shopping this holiday season. It takes mindfulness for sure, but not necessarily more money, and if you shop on-line, itís far less pain than braving the crowded mall.
Here are some simple suggestions:
Fair Trade Gifts Buying fair trade goods lets us use our purchasing power to directly support artists by providing fair wages and working conditions that would otherwise go unmet. Fair trade organizations operate differently than large corporations by eliminating the middlemen and buying directly from the artisan, offering a fair price for items purchased, often providing the only opportunity these villagers have for employment. Beautiful handmade rugs, baskets, handbags, mirrors, jewelry and wall hangings are a few of the items typically offered.
Eco-Friendly Jewelry Gold may look pure, but itís shiny veneer belies a devastating cost to the environment. When gold is mined, the earth is basically blasted and massive craters are dug. Cyanide is poured over the ore to extract the gold and some companies dump the contaminated waste rock into oceans and rivers. Industrial methods of extracting jewelryís precious metals and gems from the earth damage the land and endanger ecosystems. Best bet, buy recycled or vintage. Alternatively, avoid gold and precious gemstones, the least eco-friendly jewelry alternatives, and opt for glass, pearl or recycled material fair-trade options.
Reusable or Recycled Gift Wrap Did you know that the manufacture of paper utilizes about 55% virgin wood pulp? And of that virgin wood, 16% comes from plantation forests, 30% from second growth forests and 9% from old growth forests. Each year a staggering $5 billion worth of gift wrap is tossed in the trash. Reusable Gift Wraps save paper from our landfills while enabling others to do the same.
Fair Trade Coffee and Chocolate By opting for chocolate and coffee labeled Fair Trade, you support a system working to restore fair wages and working conditions to impoverished communities, and which are truly making a difference in the ability of remote villagers in places such as Latin America, Asia and Africa to live healthy, productive lives.
And finally, (yes Iím almost done!) BYOB for all purchases. Donít be afraid to bring your own bag to ANY store Ė I will never admit this in person, but it gives me a bit of a smug feeling to know that Iím (sadly, here in the US) defying convention AND sending a positive message. If your reusable grocery bags are not as beautiful as youíd like, there are many stylish shopping bag options in all price range to choose from Ė AND you donít have to pose as a walking advertisement for a store.
Each time we make a conscientious choice to live more sustainably, the long term effects are exponential. By making simple changes, such as buying reusable cloth bags, weíre saving energy, protecting trees and keeping pollution out of the environment with every use. Same thing with reusable water bottles and coffee mugs Ė anything reusable for that matter. This holiday season shop sustainably by choosing gifts that give back!
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