When I first sat down to write an ethical holiday shopping guide for 2020, I thought it’d be easy peasy. Just recommend great gifts, right? But the more I thought about it, the more I remembered that 2020 is a year like no other. And so much has changed with our shopping habits as well as our shipping habits. It seemed like I would be negligent not to talk about what ethical online shopping looked like in 2020.
Ethical consumption in general, and fair trade products specifically, are ethical because they treat people and planet with dignity. But right now, there’s another common element between most of our consumption: it’s happening online. Online shopping has skyrocketed simply because we need to remain physically distant from one another whenever possible.
Shipping itself is necessary. I deeply value Canada Post, the courier services and all of the public servants that make a postal system possible. That’s how you move things around if you don’t own a big, fancy truck like companies do. So the postal service is important and we should use it when we need it.
But what isn’t necessary is overloading the postal service. There are ways that we can thank our postal workers and treat them better. (Isn’t that what we’d want for fair trade producers?) These tips also help ensure that your parcel for Nana gets to Canmore in time for the holidays!
How to ethically ship holiday gifts in 2020
There are a couple of ways that holiday gifts can make their way to us. Sometimes, we receive them first, and sometimes the gift recipient gets the parcel directly. Let’s talk about each of these options and how they reduce the workload on the postal service this holiday season.
When should I ship online purchases to myself first?
Maybe you haven’t given much thought to it, and that’s OK! But it’s helpful to think about which situations make it better to ship online purchases to yourself first.
The main goal: reduce how many parcels are in the postal system around the holidays. So keep that in mind while we’re talking about this, because it’s not a one-size-fits-all answer.
Some folks will give one present to each person, while some folks give several gifts to each loved one. This will affect what the best option is, shipping-wise. It’ll also depend on how you do your shopping. So for instance, will all your gifts for your brother come from the same online store? Or are you getting many things from that store, dividing gifts among a few recipients, and repeating with another store?
If you want to take advantage of free shipping rates, that’s a great call! It’s typically a good idea to get the minimum order, as that usually helps the business out as well. If you’ve ever wondered why free shipping thresholds are a thing, take it from this small business owner: it helps make orders worthwhile. I’m happy to ship an order for free when I know that I’ll be able to make ends meet. From an ethical business’ perspective, it also helps make sure we minimize any environmental footprint. Shipping does have a carbon footprint, of course! So encouraging folks to grab a few things at once is better for the planet. Case in point: Rosette has lots of customers who order every few months, and each time, they stock up and get free shipping.
So if you’re getting lots of gifts, bundle them together at as few retailers as possible. Then ship it all to yourself first. This helps cut down on parcels, and also saves you money with free shipping!
When does it make sense to ship gifts directly to recipients?
Sometimes it really does make sense to ship gifts directly to the recipient. Don’t we all have that one cousin who only likes oddly specific things? Or an uncle who only ever uses things from one specific brand? So sometimes you end up in a situation where you can only go through that company’s website.
In these cases, it’s most efficient to buy it all in one place and ship straight to them. So if you’re sending a few gifts, try to get it all from the same niche website. When you’re checking out, you might even find that they have a gift-wrapping option. You can enter your loved one’s shipping address and send it straight there, saving the postal service a trip to your house!
Now, I want to give a caveat on this. When I suggest shopping in as few individual stores as possible, I’m not talking about Amazon. It’s tempting, I know! They do have a ton of offerings and it makes the convenience seem really lovely. But Amazon’s ethics (or lack thereof) are well-documented and they don’t even save parcels for the post office. (If you’ve ordered a large order from them before, you know that the order will typically arrive in several different parcels, sometimes on separate days altogether. And it’s often a tiny item in a huge box with a slew of those plastic air pockets.)
If you’re buying super specific things for choosier loved ones, try to shop local, and if you can’t, at least try to shop small! Small businesses will definitely thank you for your support right now!
How early should I shop for the 2020 holiday season?
Canada Post has asked that consumers shop as early as possible this holiday season. This is despite them adding more staff, weekend deliveries and more.
Because the holiday season is always the busiest, “Christmas volumes” has been Canada Post’s code for “busy” for years. But that went out the window in 2020, when Canada Post issued a statement that they were at “Christmas volumes” by April. And as you know, April is nowhere near Christmas!
So to say that the volumes this holiday season are going to be unprecedented is a pretty safe bet. So let’s do our best to respect postal workers and reduce how many parcels we’re sending. Check out the short video below from Rosette on this very topic!
Where to buy ethical gifts this holiday season
This bring us to the question of: where do we find the most ethical gifts for the people we love?
My advice is to go with fair trade wherever possible. That’s because fair trade is the best of both worlds (ethical for people and planet). Why choose between them when you can get both together? It’s a no-brainer!
Rosette Fair Trade’s online store offers a variety of clothing, housewares and more that make great gifts. Here are a couple of examples:
Clothing is a classic gift! Give the gift of practicality, comfort and peace of mind that your loved ones’ clothing was made sweatshop-free! These fair trade, organic essentials from Maggie’s Organics will compliment any wardrobe (even those minimalist capsule wardrobes!), and become instant favourites due to their cozy, comfy organic cotton jersey!
This little candle is as lovely-smelling as it is cute! The all-natural beeswax smells of honey! This beehive beeswax candle is a great addition to any stocking this year!
We hope this ethical holiday shopping guide has been helpful in your quest to vote with your dollar! Each of us is on a different path, of course. Doing what we can, exactly where we are right now, is the most important thing. Swap a couple things out for a fair trade alternative, or swap them all to become a fair trade superstar!
Whatever you do, be sure you have a wonderful, safe and warm holiday season!