I just got home from hopefully the last round of shopping for holiday presents this year. Yes, we are in a recession. But the stores and holiday markets are still packed with people busy stimulating the economy, as Mayor Bloomberg keeps telling us to do.
I will be the first to admit that I probably enjoy shopping a bit too much for a Quaker. That said, this year I have been taking small steps to be a bit more responsible in my consumerism.
What I have been trying to emphasize in my buying choices this year is to shop locally and support eco-friendly products.
My extended family for many years has been doing a raucous and festive gift exchange that's the highlight of every Christmas. Typically, we pick a theme for the gifts on Thanksgiving, as well as a spending cap. I managed to convince my family this year to go with the theme "Going Green." So hopefully everyone is going to contribute something that is good for the environment, or at least not to damaging to it.
Wrapping paper of course is a huge waste of paper resources every year. I found some really nice "non-tree-based" gift wrap at Jam Paper & Envelope in the East Village, made by hand in India from cotton, a more renewable resource than trees. They have a number of beautiful designs and colors for sale.
Here are some more cool eco-friendly gift wrap alternatives.
There are lots of merchants in New York that sell Fair Trade, organic, renewable gifts. Some products that I like:
- My friend Jen Pringle's classy cufflinks made from old subway maps that you can get from the Transit Museum Store
- "Wrecords by Monkey" wristbands made from old records
- CroptoCup's Fair Trade, organic coffee from Uganda
There are lots of great stores and artisans in Brooklyn that sell beautiful goods that I am happy to support. You get a warm-and-fuzzy feeling knowing that you are helping people in your hood do what they love.
This year I spent quite a bit of money at the lovely Artez'n Store on Atlantic Avenue, which specializes in Brooklyn-based arts and crafts. They have everything from handmade tee-shirts to doggie treats to paper goods. Really nice folks there, too.
The Brooklyn Flea, the curated flea market just a couple of blocks from me on Lafayette Street, organized a cool holiday market in the Masonic temple across the street. I've been there twice and found lots of great stuff at bargain prices. Plus I had some nice conversations with the people that created the work that's for sale.
All-in-all, I wish I had done more to be a more responsible shopper. My colleague Jay doesn't buy presents at all — he makes contributions to different charities and non-profits in the name of his family members. I'm not ready to go that far, but maybe next year I'll experiment with combining a more modest present with a charitable donation. I.e. a sustainably created handicraft from the Amazon rainforest that supports forest preservation efforts.