‘Tis The Season… To Make That Gift Count

By Daniel Pulaski – Emzingo

Unless you’re a hermit (which I have nothing wrong with), you know we’re in the thick of the holiday season. For some, this means a time for family and friends. For others, it’s a well-deserved break from work, if you’re lucky to even get it. And for others, it’s about getting as far away as possible from those adorable (or diabolical) Christmas markets and kitschy decorated malls. But for retailers, it means business, and LOTS of it. This is the most important two months of their year, and we, as consumers, play right into their hands.

According to the Deloitte 2014 US Annual Holiday Survey, “Consumers expect to increase their spending by 13 percent ($1,299 in 2014, up from $1,154 in 2013) across all categories this holiday season.” And a whopping 58% of us won’t even look to stay within a spending budget!

So, what does this all have to do with me or you? Well, if you’ve gotta shop (I prefer the word “consume”), because you know your mom’s expectation of you to arrive at your family’s house with bags full of gifts, why not try this year to be a bit more conscious of what you’re buying and where it comes from?

Patagonia, for instance, is a great example of “conscious consumerism”, even though it’s a very successful retailer. For the past couple of years, it has put red tags on its merchandise for Black Friday saying “Don’t Buy Me”. Some say it’s a reverse-psychology tactic, which intended or not has increased sales significantly. Nevertheless, what’s interesting is the message: Stop consuming so much! Make our products last. If they don’t, bring them to our store and we’ll fix them or replace them for you. Now, imagine H&M or Zara saying that…

So what about where a product comes from? We know the backlash that retailers faced with the tragedy in Bangladesh of garment workers. And it’s us, the consumer, who actually can make a difference. Do you really think that those jeans actually can cost you $10 on sale?

Think about what it’s taken to produce the raw materials for those jeans, the labor to put it all together, the transportation to drive it/ship it/train it/drive it to where you live, etc. How could the real cost only be $10?

Well it isn’t, but you’re not paying for the carbon emissions or for a fair and decent living wage to the person sewing it all together.

Hang on, hang on… you might be thinking that you cannot possibly know where all your products come from. And I agree, but if we were all just a little bit more conscious about what we’re actually buying, imagine?

So what can we do about it? Well, ‘tis the season, so why not buy locally? It helps small business within your community, and it also enables you to differentiate your gifts from the rest! Who wants another pair of socks from Macy’s when you can buy a new pair from that college friend’s start-up?

I’m fortunate enough to travel for work and I’ve had the opportunity and privilege to meet amazing organizations, start-ups, non-profits, and social businesses. One example is Wandile Solombela from Soweto (Johannesburg), South Africa, who founded the social business Shwe Swe Poppis. This business designs and sells ethnic dolls inspired by local children, while employing community members and raising funds for the African Children’s Feeding Scheme. And you know what? You can feel good buying, and feel good giving, knowing that you’re supporting a great cause, and gifting a unique product with an amazing story!

Local children-inspired dolls by Shwe Swe Poppis (South Africa)

Another example, which offers high-end, socially inspired textiles, is bococo. Its vision is to “reinterpret Filipino artisanal crafts into contemporary products,” says its co-founder Emily Arciszewska. She continues, “This means adapting traditional patterns and colors to suit the modern market, for example, reintroducing cotton to weavers as a new material that improves the value and quality of their crafts.” By creating high-end quality products, the bococo team hopes to regenerate an interest of weaving within the communities in which they collaborate, as well as promote a new form of handwoven arts. It is this story that differentiates their products and inspires a whole brand. Oh and by the way, their products are beautifully finished (perfect gifts for the holiday season)!

So you see? You do have a choice. You have a say. It’s your well-earned money and you can spend it however you like. But hey… during this holiday season, why not try something new. Look for products with a story, products that make a genuine positive impact, for everyone involved.

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