Green Holiday Shopping

This article was published by Newsletter, issue #26, .

The holiday shopping season in the United States begins, for most consumers, on the day after Thanksgiving, "Black Friday", and ends just before Christmas — though for some people it is the last few minutes that the stores are open on Christmas Eve, as the more frantic shoppers feel the panic caused by their procrastination. But regardless of when the gift items are actually purchased, and whether they are obtained in a "bricks and mortar" store or ordered over the Internet, the ecological and social impact of those purchases will be felt throughout the industrial world, for years after the cash registers ring up those purchases.

The same way that all humans, animals, and plants live within a complex ecosystem — whose elements depend upon one another more than they can imagine — the economy of the United States and all other modern countries form a complex system, in which every buy and sell decision affects similar decisions of the immediate participants, sending information outwards on the countless strands that form the economic web. Consequently, when someone chooses to fill their Christmastime shopping cart with plastic, foreign-made gewgaws soon bound for the landfills, those consumers are telling the manufacturers and distributors that they want more of those products, regardless of their impact upon our planet. The message is clear in its meaning: "Send us more junk, at the lowest monetary price, regardless of its ecological price".

On the other hand, when people choose to purchase and give Christmas gifts that are environmentally friendly and socially responsible, they are sending an equally clear and influential message, but with quite different content from the conventional one: "Offer us only products that are higher quality, more sustainable, and gentler on our world". This message is just as clear and influential as the former, and delivered in the same attention-getting language that all businesses use as their primary means of communicating with the markets: money — more precisely: prices paid and prices charged.

Decades ago, just about the only way that the average urban dweller could easily opt for giving a "green" gift, was by making it themselves (or convincing the unsuspecting children that doing so was a fun game). Nowadays, some of the more forward-looking "bricks and mortar" stores are offering planet-friendly holiday gifts. But the best selection by far is to be found on the Web, where an eco-revolution is taking place in how the online retailers choose the most environmentally and socially responsible products available, and how Earth-conscious consumer's are rewarding those retailers by purchasing those products — even if it means paying a bit more — that are consistent with their values, in which they feel will have a positive impact on our environment, and all its inhabitants.

The bottom line is, when you make a purchase, you cast an economic and ecological ballot. When you vote with your dollars — including during the holidays — vote green!

Copyright © 2006 Michael J. Ross. All rights reserved.
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