Section: Opinion

Be a mindful consumer this season

In a year where physically being together for the holidays is not an option for most, many of us will turn to gift giving as a way to show our love. Before browsing on Amazon or heading to Target, though, you should consider the influence you have as a consumer. With your purchases, you have the ability to support your community and the causes that are important to you, so be mindful of how you shop this holiday season.

First, consider shopping at local businesses. A huge benefit of doing this is that your money continues to circulate in the local economy rather than further lining the pockets of a super-rich white guy somewhere far away (I’m looking at you, Jeff Bezos). Small-business owners hire locally, giving jobs to people in their communities instead of outsourcing workers. They also know how to support their communities in direct ways that larger corporations never would. My mom, for example, owns a flower shop and she and her fellow small-business owners often sponsor Little League teams or buy ads in the local high school’s newspaper. 

If these businesses disappear, as many already have due to the pandemic, communities will deeply miss their presence. Employees and business owners risk losing their livelihoods because COVID-19 makes it impossible for customers to frequent their restaurants or stop in their stores to shop. In addition, the government has failed to pass further stimulus that is so desperately needed. While it should not be the consumer’s responsibility to keep these businesses open right now, supporting them is a small way to help in the absence of systemic support. 

Another way that your dollar can have a real influence is by actively choosing to support BIPOC-owned businesses. We as a country have been reckoning with the injustices caused by systemic racism. One way to put our money where our mouths are and show up for BIPOC is by supporting their businesses. A quick Google search can provide a list of Black-owned businesses in your area, and there are many listings for BIPOC-owned brands to support that are easily accessible on social media platforms and news outlets. 

Finally, when shopping for holiday gifts this year, consider the effect your purchases will have on the environment. When it comes to gift giving, it is easy to prioritize quantity over quality. Consider buying things that are made to last yet still affordable to create less waste: Skip fast fashion stores and buy clothing staples that will last longer. It’s also important to think about the practices of the businesses you support. Retailers that place an emphasis on sustainability and environmentalism are popping up in all different industries. Support them when you are able to as you complete your holiday shopping. 

Being a mindful consumer is often a lot easier said than done. When buying from small businesses or sustainable companies, gifts might be a bit more expensive and thus not accessible to everyone. However, simply making small steps towards being conscious of how you shop can have a tangible impact. Shopping small might mean buying jewelry from a friend who found a new creative outlet during quarantine. Gifting sustainably might mean opting for a reusable gift bag instead of plain old wrapping paper. You have the power to support your communities and the environment this holiday season — use it.

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