Responsible Christmas Shopping?

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Sarah was asked by the Diocese of Leicester if she had any tips on how to do Christmas more responsibly, and this is what she came up with!

I have spent more than 20 years helping people with Christmas shopping! It started in my house when I held Traidcraft Parties back in the early ‘90s. Now I help customers choose gifts in our large shop on Leicester’s Silver Street. It’s something I love, talking to customers; those purchasers who start early and organised arriving with a list, to the last minute Christmas Eve shoppers with a slight look of panic in their eyes. If I can help them choose thoughtful gifts that will give joy to the recipient I’m happy.

A lot has changed. Fairtrade was probably the first to encourage people to think about what they buy and ask who makes or grows it and how they are treated. Then more questions were asked, how is it made, is it sustainable, how did it travel to get on the shop shelf, what’s it made out of and how is it packaged. All these questions, it can feel overwhelming and you can wonder if its even worth trying to do the right thing, whatever the right thing might be!

So can I suggest a few simple pointers for enjoying a more fair trade, ethical and sustainable Christmas.

Gifts should be joy givers 

Don’t fall into the trap of the novelty purchase that is quickly discarded. Consider William Morris’ golden rule; 

‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.’

Buy products with a story

Shops supporting skilled artisans will know where their products come from and who made them. In our case it might be fair trade jewellery makers in Peru and Ecuador, in another shop a silver smith in Harborough. Not only is this kind of purchase more likely to benefit the maker, the person that needs the money the most, but makes the gift more individual and special.

Look for Recycled and Up-cycled options

There are so many beautiful things you can buy that have already had a life. Recycled plastic bottles are being made into soft rugs, cushions and throws, and strong waterproof backpacks! Newspaper is skilfully woven into pencil pots and photo frames. Aluminium is remade and enamelled creating beautiful colourful bowls and coasters.

Buy from independents where possible. 

Spend with independents (that includes online!) and the money stays local; for every £1 spent, 63p stays in the local community, compared to 40p with larger businesses, or just 5p for online shopping! In Leicester we are lucky to have a range of independent shops, try moving away from High Cross and explore The Lanes and St Martin’s Square area of town and you’ll find lots of choice.

Remember you have power to do good with every purchase choice.