Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally is the start of the Christmas shopping season in the United States. Retailers across the country attract customers with some of the best promotional offers of the entire year. Black Friday shopping is the embodiment of consumerism, but also a blessing for those who cannot afford expensive gifts.
This article explores several compelling arguments why you should avoid cheap junk and opt for high quality, green and sustainable gifts instead, regardless of the size of your wallet.
For A Better Consciousness
Cheap junk is typically made somewhere in Asia. Not only does the low price indicate that these products were probably produced by adults and possibly children working for starvation wages, it also speaks volumes about the quality and safety you can expect. In the worst case, the products are contaminated with hazardous substances.
While the situation has been improving, particularly in China, it is still serious enough for The New York Times to regularly add stories to its subject category on Consumer Safety and China. Are these the presents you want to gift your loved ones? How does that reflect on you?
There is another aspect to this. Since the economic crisis in 2008, the United States has gone through a major depression and millions of people have lost their jobs. Yes, consumption can temporarily contribute to the stabilization of the economy. However, this only works if you purchase products created and/or manufactured in the United States, i.e. products that secure American jobs.
Moreover, studies on greenhouse gas emissions have revealed that large cargo ships are some of the worst offenders in terms of atmospheric pollution. According to an article published in the Daily Mail in 2009, it takes only 16 ships to create as much [sulfur] pollution as all the cars in the world. There are hundreds of these ships crossing the world’s oceans and they carry products from Asia to North America and Europe. Goods produced close to where you live, however, are transported by rail or trucks, leading to a significant reduction of the pollution associated with transport.
For Better Quality
Products made in Asia aren’t always bad. In fact, some of the most innovative and high quality brands are from Japan (Sony), South Korea (Samsung), and Singapore (Creative). Quality products last longer, come with better service, and in the best cases can be returned to the manufacturer for repair or recycling.
Greenpeace recently released its Guide to Greener Electronics. The report shows that two American brands, HP and Dell, head the list, followed by Nokia (Finland), Apple (USA), and Philips (Netherlands). Why should you bother? Well, ‘green’ electronics typically consume less energy and thus save you money. Besides, these companies have adopted sustainable operations, leading to less environmental pollution and less toxic products, among other things.
You can download the guide from Greenpeace.
For The Future
When you buy a product, you don’t just consume, you also support values. If I asked you to entertain the thought of supporting poor wages, child labor, poor working conditions, contaminated products, environmental pollution, waste of natural resources, and an ever increasing mountain of trash that will take hundreds of years to decompose, how would you feel? Most people are disgusted by these ideas. If you don’t want to contribute to those issues, you have to change the way you consume.
Buy products produced locally, support companies that make an effort to become sustainable (green), stop buying physical products and switch to services instead. Better yet, stop buying stuff altogether and start using what you already have, for example your skills. You will spend less money and you will spend more time with your loved ones.
Finally, let’s conclude this article with a story. It is winter after all, the perfect season for storytelling. This is the Story of Stuff…
When you go out to shop for deals this Friday or Christmas gifts throughout December, ask yourself twice what you are going to buy. Is this a safe gift? How long will it last? How badly does it contribute to pollution? And how will it reflect on myself?
If you need some advice for buying green gifts, have a look at these articles:
What presents are you planning to buy this year?