Ethical Christmas

By Rheanna Houston

December is here, which has come to signify that it is time to binge-shop for friends, family and perhaps less than likeable characters who we feel obligated to buy for. Regardless of the cultural or religious reasons behind one’s gift-giving, we do indeed partake in it, and it can be safely said that the gifts we choose to buy are often not ethically produced. Although the making of these products provides jobs for many people in countries that are often developing nations, the working conditions and pay rate for these employees is often very poor and sometimes inhumane.

We ought to shop consciously this holiday, encouraging equality and protesting injustice. One way to do this is to boycott items that are unfairly produced, challenging companies with such practices to make changes in employee pay, benefits and working conditions. Some alternative shopping options include shopping locally, shopping with the environment in mind, and shopping from businesses that trade fairly.

Buying locally can help to stimulate our local economy and community. When we buy from each other, we are able to promote sustainability within our own backyard, and not rely on large corporations for economic stability. When we meet the person creating our goods, we can build relationships and get to know each other as a community.

Shopping with the environment in mind has become a huge trend. There are now many eco-friendly alternatives to our everyday products, such as cleaning supplies, clothing, drink containers, paper and cosmetics. It is also important to consider that the farther an item has to travel to reach you, the larger its environmental footprint. To shop local can also reduce carbon emissions caused by globalized transport. A local company called Hook Lifestyle designs t-shirts printed on bamboo and hemp bases, taking a simple clothing item and focusing on its environmental quality.

Although there are companies that treat employees unfairly, there is also myriad businesses that purposefully make an effort to ensure that their products are produced justly, paying employees well and some even maintaining personal relationships with their vendors. It is important to support companies such as these, as this can be a positive kick in the butt for other firms to change policies, and can be a constructive way to support monetary growth in developing communities. Cariño is a Calgary-based business that sells items such as bags, jewelry and crocheted scarves made by women in financial need in Bolivia. The women who make the items, who are known personally by the business itself, choose the items’ sale price.

Although it can be easy to shop unethically for gifts, there are also numerous affordable and exciting alternatives to shop consciously. Some excellent places to find ethical items are at Christmas With Conscience on Dec. 18, Market Collective, Ten Thousand Villages and Community Natural Foods. So as the snow continues to fall and we embark on shopping excursions, we ought to also embark with ethics, and consider with great thought the story behind the products that we purchase.

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