It’s Christmas season which means it’s time to spend a lot of money. 😉 The time is near for Black Friday and Boxing Day. Depending on how big you family and friend group is it also means you are going to be broke for a little while. Honestly, I love Christmas. I have been playing Christmas music since September and I cannot wait to set up our Christmas tree. Christmas time, for me means spending time with family and friends, taking a break from school and maybe catching up on some TV shows. In all the craziness of the season it can be even harder to be intentional with your spending. It can be harder to avoid being wasteful.
I was going to do an ethical gift-giving guide but the more I thought about it the more it felt wrong. In the past couple of years where I have gone on this path to shop ethically; I have not completely been buying gifts ethically. Some were ethically made others were not. The biggest reason for this was money. I am a 22-year-old university student working part time and making minimum wage. It is incredibly difficult making the commitment to buy ethically made items for myself. It feels impossible to do that for everyone on my Christmas list. I suspect that I am not the only one. There could be a 26-year-old with massive student debt for whom the whole idea of ethical shopping feels like a luxury. You could also be the parent with children paying for daycare and mortgages. Therefore, it felt disingenuous to write a list when I was fully aware that I would not be faithfully adhering to it.
So instead of doing a Christmas guide I thought I would do a list of six simple things that we can do this Christmas season to be a little more intentional. Remember it’s not about doing all the things. This is not a checklist. You can do one, two or all six. You can add more stuff to it or not. I just believe that it is important to do the small things to make the big changes. I took calculus in grade 12. However, that was not the first time in my life that I did math. I had years of practice. Those years of practice made it possible for me to succeed in my calculus class. At some point, I had to learn how to add and subtract. The ethical consumerism journey is like math for me. Start small then add up on your knowledge and slowly change your habits and actions. I have found that I cannot change my lifestyle all at once. I am taking a slow approach when it comes to living intentionally. So, here’s some of my recommendations:
- Get a reusable coffee mug. It is the season of holiday drinks and you can make a difference by getting yours from a mug that is reusable. According to Carry Your Cup, every year Americans throw out about 25 billion styrofoam coffee cups. Buy a reusable mug AND remember to bring it with you. This applies to water bottles too.
- Suggest a secret Santa type gift exchange whenever possible. I know this might not always work out due to cultural things or because it hard letting go of Christmas traditions and you might meet resistance from someone. If that happens then it’s okay. My friends and I have been successfully doing this though. It’s lots of fun and easy on the wallet. It’s nice to spend Christmas without worrying about getting into debt.
- Start out by buying ethically made chocolate or coffee. Make that one small change in your life and slowly work up to other things. Maybe there’s a local market near you? Check it out!
- Find an organization that is doing something good and give. You can give money BUT you can also give your time or your talents. Be creative it can be fun!
- If this ethical consumerism thing is new to you; if you don’t even know how you would define ethical shopping spend some time learning. Here are some bloggers I love for inspiration and their styling tips Holly, Andrea, Hannah , and Ellie. I like project JUST because it gives an assessment of how companies are doing. I’ve also heard lots of good things about the movie, True Cost, if you want to check it out. I believe it’s on Netflix.
- Take inventory of the items in your closet and think about what you need. Write it down. I have a list of things I need and want. I separate the two even in my list so that I don’t overspend and put myself in debt. Having a list also helps prevent any impulsive shopping.
I am a perfectionist. I love the thought of doing things perfectly. Unfortunately, I’m not Super Woman or that amazing. Therefore, I have learned to slowly let go of that tendency. To take small action steps rather than committing to make big changes in all areas of my life all at once. It’s like New year’s resolutions. You have all the best intentions. You want the next year to be your best year. AND you succeed. The first couple of weeks to a month you are on point. Then it gets harder. You skip the gym; you eat less vegetables and hand in an assignment late. This was me. This is not a sustainable way of making changes in your life. Habits take time to form. Old habits take time to break. Things do not happen in a vacuum. My desire to shop ethically is not the only thing I need to change. Another complimentary behavioural change I need to make is how I spend and view money. Without that knowledge, it becomes almost impossible to be the kind of ethical shopper I desire to be.
I think we all have those things. We are not one dimensional. There is a lot on our plates and we must juggle. Juggling is hard work. However, hard work pays off and doing the right things is always the best! So, as I you are shopping and planning for Christmas and the coming year, remember small things add up. Small things make a difference. AND there is nothing wrong with starting small.