Fourth quarter forecasts for retail companies are bleak this year, and consumer confidence is the lowest it’s been in years. A Deloitte survey released in late October reported that almost six in 10 consumers said they would reduce spending this holiday season, and nearly seven in 10 said they would wait for store sales, cut back on shopping trips to save gasoline and use more store coupons.
In some respects, it’s Christmas come early for Adbusters magazine: Each year they promote an alternative to the Black Friday shopping frenzy: Buy Nothing Day, “a day for society to examine the issue of over-consumption.” Given our troubled economy, this year many may unknowingly participate in this “holiday” simply because they cannot afford to do otherwise.
But is this the right time to deliberately choose to buy nothing? It’s a double-edged sword. For years, President Bush has told us to strengthen the economy by shopping more; indeed, the “Shop for America” mentality helped to lessen the impact of the recession in 2001, while at the same time contributing to the credit crisis our country faces today. So maybe a consumer-based economy isn’t the most sustainable model – but where does that leave you, the responsible citizen? Instead of buying nothing, buy less or buy with a purpose. Consider the environment and the bigger picture (is the product you are buying environmentally friendly?); consider the values your purchase supports (is the company you’re buying from committed to socially responsible business practices?); consider the impact your purchase has on future generations and the planet.
That’s certainly a lot to consider when you’re checking people off your list this holiday season. To keep you sane, here are a few ideas that live up to the above criteria:
- Purchase carbon offsets for family members who are traveling for the holiday
- Share your commitment to a causeand help someone in need by giving a “virtual charity gift” via Mercy Corps, UNICEF or Heifer International
- Host an organic holiday meal
- Double the impact of a cash gift with a Kiva.org loan
- Be eco-chic and wrap gifts in recycled paper
- Sell gifts you receive and don’t need (or want!) through eBay’s Giving Works and donate part or all of your sales to your favorite nonprofit organization
All you smart blog fans out there – please let us know your ideas and strategies for sustainably sharing the holiday spirit.
- Jillian Wilson Martin, Senior Account Executive