If you are like most Americans, you’re well into your Christmas shopping, but as you find those last few presents, take a moment to think about those gifts you were planning on buying. Where do you think they were made? Who do you think made them? Did they work in humane conditions? Do you think environmentally friendly practices were used in the process or is it likely harmful chemicals were dumped into local watersheds?
I know. It’s not fun to think about those things, right? We just want to sit back and enjoy the time with our families, but we need to do more. We’ve been called to do more.
It’s 2015. It’s hard to believe that at this point in time with all the technological and human advances people and creation is still being exploited in the worst ways for profit, but it’s true. As Christians, we should be taking a stand and using our dollars to support companies and organizations that are out there doing great things.
Here are some options for you to consider as you dig into your Christmas gift giving this year:
Option 1: Shop Vintage
Did you know that Goodwill has an auction site where they sell all their best stuff? Shopgoodwill.com has some seriously amazing things. Things like costume jewelry from the ’50s, old wooden radios, vintage typewriters and a knight’s helmet that opens up and holds shot glasses and a decanter (sorry folks, already nabbed that one).
Get creative with your gift-giving. It’s fun to scour the site and find unique gifts. Plus, your purchases go to help support the amazing programs Goodwill has to offer.
You can also take time to go antiquing at your local shops. Take a day away from the hectic malls and have fun digging through history instead!
In shopping vintage, you’re keeping things out of landfills and not contributing to the consumerist nature of “new products.” Shopping secondhand is about as ethical as you can get!
Option 2: Shop Local
Check around your area to find items that are made locally. Support businesses in your home community! There are a lot of hard-working people scraping a living doing something they love in order to get you quality products.
Check out local bazaars and craft sales, they’re everywhere at Christmas time. Walk down the street in your hometown/nearest city. Ask your friends and family who they know operating small businesses that you can support.
Option 3: Use an Ethical Shopping Guide
You can still shop online! Check out this Ethical Shopping Guide created by Micah Challenge USA to help you in the process. They’ve already done all the vetting for you and have organized everything in sections (e.g. accessories, home goods, clothing, food and drink, for the kids, etc.) to make it easier for you as the shopper.
You can check out Re:New which helps support refugee women here in the U.S. with jobs and uses recycled materials. Maybe the fella in your life is looking for new shoes? Oliberté is a fair trade shoe brand supporting workers rights in Sub-Saharan Africa (and the shoes are super cute). Why not encourage imagination in the children on your list this year with Imagine Childhood. They have fun, creative gifts that are fair trade. How about the foodie in your life? AlterEco works directly with small-scale farmers for sustainable and fair trade food production (anyone else craving salted caramel truffles?).
There are so many good options out there, so there’s no need to waste your time, energy and money on unethical corporations that are exploiting both people and creation.
Option 4: Donate
Adopt a refugee family. Buy toys or needed clothing for children in need in your community. Donate a goat to a family in need overseas. Come together with your entire family and collect money to provide clean water in Rwanda. There are so many great options out there to help others.
Maybe we should take a step back from consumerism this Christmas to help those who need it most. Or maybe you can do a mix and match. A few presents for the people you love and a few presents for those in need.
Buying Christmas gifts ethically doesn’t have to be an added headache. It can be exceptionally rewarding! Not only are you getting great items for the people you love, but you’re also supporting great organizations and companies—it’s an all-around win!
Just remember this Christmas season that each dollar you spend is a vote for the kind of world you want. How are you going to vote?
is an activist and writer living in Portland, Oregon.