Let’s slow things down this Christmas. We all know the madness of the hustle at this time of year and how we come out of this holiday period feeling more like we ran a marathon than enjoyed time off to be with our family and friends. One of the biggest stressors of our time, energy, and finances, is the pressure to join in on the consumer rat race and arrive with a mountain of gifts come Christmas morning. This is all the more reason to practice becoming a conscious consumer this Christmas.
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Gift giving itself is not at all inherently wrong and is truly one of the most thoughtful ways to show love and appreciation for another. It is a love language in its own right after all. That said, we know that fast consumerism has a few major issues including unsustainable production practices, unfair wages, and lower quality products with less longevity that contribute to the ever-growing, non-recyclable waste piling up on our planet.
Rather than cancelling gift giving altogether (unless you and your family love that idea), we can shift our approach to that of the conscious consumer this Christmas and do gifts a little bit differently. Many of us are already living an eco friendly lifestyle, or building our sustainable homes, so depending on our resources in time, money, and creativity, we might consider a few different ways to give this Christmas - by consciously buying, giving without buying, and giving homemade gifts.
What does it really mean to be a conscious consumer? Aren't we all conscious all the time? Yes, in the sense that we are alive and operating, but when it comes to non-life threatening situations and decisions, we have the time and room to bring more awareness into our actions, rather than just moving on impulse. In the case of being a conscious consumer this Christmas, we can bring awareness to our purchases by slowing down and considering each gift with a few extra thoughts.
[caption id="attachment_1838" align="aligncenter" width="366"] Source: Erika Rax[/caption]
Questions to ask ourselves before we buy something:
Do I need it, or does the person I’m buying for need it?
This might not be a question at the forefront of our mind when buying a gift for someone since our culture generally sees gifts as non-essentials and luxury items. That said, if there is something someone needs that they cannot afford or haven’t been able to make the time to acquire, gifting it to them is a truly thoughtful way to make an improvement in their life. In fact, receiving something you actually need is probably more appreciated than knowing someone spent money on you that could have gone to something really useful. If we buy on a need basis, we might all come out of Christmas more relaxed and ready for the new year rather than a little bit broke and still with a long list of things we require.
Would I buy it if it wasn’t on sale?
Marketing psychology is in place to get us to buy things we’re on the fence about, or even things we don’t necessarily want. When we see a sale, we automatically think we have an opportunity to save money, or to buy something we wouldn’t have been able to buy otherwise. This gives us the illusion that we are getting a good deal. If we imagine the item at its full price and wouldn’t value it enough to buy it, perhaps we can reconsider whether it's actually a deal or not.
How often will they wear/use it?
This comes back to the need-based buying question a bit. While it’s fun to have a special item of clothing or a fancy new appliance, does the person we’re buying for need more things cluttering up their closet or kitchen? If you know their toaster broke or they lost their absolute favourite jumper, you have an opportunity to give them something you know they will use daily and be so grateful to have.
Is it well made and will it last?
This is a wonderful question to ask as a conscious consumer. Perhaps your giftee really does need a new clothing item, but not all big brands are making products with longevity. Focus on buying from brands that may charge a little bit more for quality products that last and won’t need replacing in the next year. Timeless pieces that don’t become irrelevant with fashion are another way to consider clothing as ‘long-lasting’. Some local brands will even offer free tailoring and repair as well as care tips to keep items fresh for decades.
To learn more about the future of fashion and wonderful movements go to: Who made my Clothes?
[caption id="attachment_1839" align="aligncenter" width="443"] Source: Fashion Revolution[/caption]
Who made it?
Do you know? If an item’s production is so far removed from the consumer that we have no idea who made it, it’s also impossible to know what the working conditions were and if the pay rates are fair. Stick to locally made items with transparent production practices.
If you would like to support Australian made and grown this festive season visit Australian Made.
Why am I buying this?
Good question! Is it because someone needs it or because Christmas is fast approaching? And it’s on sale? If we’re buying something because of pressure we’re getting from family, or the bombardment from advertisements, we may overlook the chance for thoughtful, conscious gift giving. If we don’t have a really good reason to buy, we can always consider another way to give gifts. Let’s explore how a conscious consumer can give without buying.
[caption id="attachment_1840" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Source: Sunset Magazine[/caption]
So how does one give without actually buying a gift? Think experiences rather than things, sharing time together, offering your own services. There are so many ways we can show thoughtfulness and consideration without going to the shops or ordering things online, and often, these gifts tend to be even more meaningful than one in a box. What you actually give depends on the person, your proximity to them, and the time or skills you have to offer, but some ideas might include:
Cook a nice meal. Head over to their house one evening with ingredients for a gourmet eat-in. You can support local farmers and enjoy a night with your friends all in the name of Christmas.
Go on a day trip. Offer to be the driver on a day trip out of town. Pack them a picnic lunch, go on a hike, walk around a new city and change the scene. Putting aside a whole day to spend with someone says a lot in these busy times.
Teach them how to make Sourdough. Invite someone over for a morning sourdough workshop. Take them through the process of slow bread making and send them home with some starters to keep it going. This can be applied to making kombucha, sauerkraut, a special kind of cuisine or even DIY skincare. Visit Green Fix for workshop ideas.
Help them start a veggie garden. If you’ve got a green thumb and you’re a bit crafty, offer to help set up a veggie garden for a friend or family member. Dig some garden beds, build some boxes, or bring some cuttings from your own garden to get them started. We’ve even got some tips to increase your veggie patch yield that you can incorporate. Also check out self watering veggie patch systems from our friends at Biofilta.
[caption id="attachment_1841" align="aligncenter" width="410"] Source: Evermine[/caption]
Homemade gifts are another way to give a thoughtful gift without going out and buying a product from a store. You may need to purchase some items for your project, but you can do this ethically and with awareness. Making a gift for someone shows that you’ve spent time thinking about them while getting a little creative and putting some energy in. These work well if you can’t commit to scheduling day trips together or if you live far away and want to post them something for the holidays. Homemade gifts can be anything at all from a handwritten poem to making your own wine or pickling some onions. Take a moment to consider something the receiver would really enjoy and then put some love into making it happen. If time is not on your side you can also consider supporting Australian handmade small businesses by visiting marketplaces such as Love Australian Hand Made.
Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA) works with local textile, clothing and footwear businesses to ensure their local Australian supply chains are transparent and legally compliant. Exploring and asking ourselves the above simple questions will guide us towards conscious consumerism. Supporting brands that pay their workers fairly and under the right conditions will ultimately strengthen our local industry. Look out for the ECA tag next time you are shopping.
Fortunately there are many shopping experiences whether it be buying locally, fashion, food or gifts where we can practice becoming conscious consumers. We are not advocating being the Christmas Grinch. However, if we explore our options and consider the environmental impact of our purchasing power we can achieve Conscious Consumerism.
The Ecoliv Team wish you a wonderful and safe holiday season shared with your family and friends.