Our view: focus on sustainable shopping for the holidays


Photo courtesy of Wesley Hammer

Sydney Harper, Opinion editor

As the Christmas season approaches, millions of people across the country will buy new gifts for their loved ones. Although new and expensive gifts can seem to be the way to go, consumers can often miss ethical implications along the way. Overall, we could all look for more valuable ways to give gifts this Christmas. 

By purchasing gifts from small businesses, shoppers are able to support family-owned businesses and invest in local community. Additionally, shopping small can make it easier to find a more personalized gift. You are much more likely to find customizable items that couldn’t be found in a larger store. 

Advertisements and product placements often overshadow the importance of shopping small. Large producers of fast fashion can often be predatory when it comes to the holidays. Sales can lead consumers to spend more and buy in bulk unnecessarily.  

Companies like Shein use fast fashion to mass produce their products. Fast fashion is especially harmful toward its workers, who often work 18-hour days and only earn 4 cents per item produced. Additionally, their first month’s pay is withheld from them entirely. One million products could be created in just one day, according to data from Business Insider. 

Fast fashion companies, especially companies like Shein, create mass amounts of “trendy” clothing that often end up discarded when they become unpopular. It is estimated 100 billion clothing items are made annually, 92 million tons of which end up in landfills—a significant number because of the massive environmental harm, according to asocon.org. 

There are several ways to change the way we shop this holiday season. While it may seem hard to stay on budget and purchase ethically, a little bit of research and effort will go a long way. Physical gifts may look more fun, but there are plenty of ways to give in a different way. 

One example of alternative giving is making a donation to a charity or nonprofit that aligns with the gift recipient’s values. This not only allows for a positive gift experience for the recipient but also provides a benefit to someone in need. In addition to making a donation, purchasing gifts such as jewelry made by women in developing countries can be another useful gift. This allows the recipient to get a unique gift that supports job growth in developing countries. 

These gift recommendations are useful ideas but certainly not the only way to shop more sustainably this holiday season. In addition to making donations or purchasing from women in developing countries, shoppers can support smaller companies rather than massive, billion-dollar corporations like Amazon. 

While there are attainable ways to shop more ethically, it is important to remember there is no completely ethical consumption under capitalism. While fast fashion companies like Shein mass produce products at the expense of their workers, we cannot totally place the blame       on shoppers seeking more affordable clothing. 

As a whole, the blame should shift to companies that use predatory practices in their business operations. By placing the blame on people in disadvantaged positions, we shift the focus away from the root cause. Allowing these companies to thrive will only perpetuate worker abuse and corrupt business practices. 

We can all do a better job of shopping sustainably and ethically. Christmas is one of the biggest points in the year for consumerism, so we should ensure we do it in a thoughtful way.