Believe it or not, the holiday season is firmly upon us, and though it likely feels nothing like the holidays you’re used to, that doesn’t mean the traditions and expectations don’t continue.
One thing that hasn’t changed, even if it’s gotten a pandemic-friendly adjustment, is holiday shopping. Even if you’re not celebrating in person with friends and family this year, you’re probably still preparing to send gifts to the people you love. But when shopping, this year more than ever, it’s a great idea to be conscious of where and how you’re shopping. You can do a lot of good by shopping in some of these ways!
You’ve probably heard this before, and for good reason! Shopping from the small businesses in your area supports your local economy as well as the business owners that live around you. Buy books from the local shop, get homemade sauces and baked goods from the restaurants and cafes you love, get that case of beer from the local brewery
Shopping at local stores means you won’t have to pay for items to be shipped to you, and you won’t be contributing to the environmental toll of packaging materials and emissions.
And for people who live near you, gift cards to your favorite stores and restaurants are a great alternative too. To keep it COVID-friendly, you can check to see if they offer contactless or curbside pickup, reduced customer shopping periods, or other safer shopping options. Most do!
Buy from Small Businesses
If you still want to shop online (a lot of times it’s easier to ship items straight to a distant loved one!), look for small businesses and brands making the items you’re looking for. These businesses need your support (especially this year) and often have better quality and customer service than the big faceless brands.
This goes for every type of product. You can find amazing small brands selling clean beauty products, delicious food, jewelry, home goods, crafts, clothes, and just about anything else. It may take a little extra searching and effort, but the rewards are amazing, both for you and the business owners. When you purchase from a small business, you make someone’s day better.
Holiday shopping, while wonderful, does take a toll on the environment. Due to the increase in deliveries, carbon emissions are at an all-time high this time of year. On top of that, shipping materials, excess packaging, and gift wrapping lead to a boon of garbage production. To combat this a bit, shop sustainably!
There are a few ways to go about this. One is to select gifts that are eco-friendly products themselves. Shop around online for sustainable gifts, or try EarthHero! It’s a website packed with products for every part of your life, and everything on the site is checked and certified to be eco-friendly in one or several ways. You can also check out sustainable clothing brands, vintage clothing, or anything that comes in more earth-conscious packaging. At the bare minimum, try to shop from brands that won’t stuff their boxes full of unnecessary plastic packaging and waste! And go with sustainable wrapping!
Buy from Diverse Business Owners
There’s been an amazing push this year to encourage shopping from Black-owned and BIPOC-owned businesses, and it’s absolutely something that should carry on into your holiday shopping. Diversify the brands you buy from: Make a concerted effort to buy from small businesses owned by Black people, other people of color, LGBTQ+ community members, and women. Lifting up these more marginalized business owners is a great thing to do, and their businesses are amazing!
Buy from People You Know
Do you see friends and family members promote their businesses and products online (and maybe ignore it)? Now is the time to support them! Sourcing gifts from the people in your own circle is a great idea. You are actually being good to two people you care about at once. If you can’t remember who you know with a business, just post a call out on Instagram or Facebook for anyone who sells their art or has a business or a store that offers gift cards. You’ll get replies!
Offer Your Time
If you opt not to give a physical gift to someone, there is another thing you can give to them to do good: yourself! Give the gift of your time or efforts to someone you care about. If you know they’re lonely, schedule a weekly video chat or start playing online games with them. If they’re local, drop off homemade meals. Be creative. Giving a gift doesn’t always have to involve wrapping and ribbon.
Annie Burdick is a writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon, but transplanted from the Midwest. She also works as a community inclusion specialist for adults with disabilities. Previously she's edited and written for magazines, websites, books, and small businesses, on an absurdly wide range of topics. She spends the rest of her time reading, eating good food, and finding new adventures in the Pacific Northwest.