How to Shop Your Values During the Holidays

Can I tell you a secret? I really love giving gifts, and I’m always a little bit of procrastinator when it comes to my holiday shopping. Anyone else in the same boat? Last year going into Black Friday, I wrote about why I gave up fast fashion (you can read the post here), and since then I’ve come up with a list of shopping guidelines I go by and I won’t go too into detail (but you can read the details here) but I buy things that generally fall into the categories of vintage, vegan, fairtrade, or recycled/upcycled. At the end of the day, I really believe you vote with your dollar, so as much as I love holiday gift giving, I try to stick to this with my shopping too. While it seems like a lot to think about and a lot of research, here are a few quick tips that will make it easy to shop your values this holiday season:

1. Look for Quality:

This year ditch the disposable, get them a gift they’ll continue to love for years to come. Low quality fast fashion clothing and accessories often break or wear out in a matter of washes (or months). With clothing, one really easy way to check the quality of the piece is to check the seams and seam allowances. Generally speaking, high quality items will have a generous seam allowance. Also look for natural fibers, they tend to stand the test of time better than synthetic fabrics.

With jewelry this can be a bit trickier to spot, unless you’re like me and always carry a loupe in your purse. One quick thing you can check for (no magnification required) is also the seams. On bracelets and necklaces, check to see if the jump rings are soldered closed. If you can’t see an opening in the rings, chances are it’s built to last beyond the season.

2. Check out Local Holiday Markets:

What could be better than getting your loved ones a truly unique gift that also boosts your local economy instead of buying something generic and mass produced? Local makers and artisans often make one of a kind and and small batch products, making it easy to find a really unique gift. They often also have local artists, restaurants, breweries, and musicians as part of the holiday market, so you can make a really nice afternoon about it and enjoy while you shop. San Diego Made Holidays Market, Renegade Market LA, and Unique LA are just a few you can find in Southern California.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions:

If you’re shopping for jewelry gifts for your loved ones (or yourself), don’t be afraid to ask the salesperson or the jeweler where their gemstones come from or where the jewelry was made. Especially in fine jewelry, this is a question they should be able to answer.

When it comes to clothes or makeup though, the salesperson probably won’t be able to answer questions about where their actual products are made and they might be able to tell you if that item is vegan or fairtrade. But luckily there are apps for that. The Good on You and Fair Fashion apps tell you how your favorite brands and retailers stack up when it comes to how they treat their workers, the environment, and animals. If you’re shopping for beauty related gifts, the Cruelty Free app will let you know if brands or even their parent companies test on animals.

4. If it seems “too cheap,” it probably is:

Just take this recent report from CBS News, where department store jewelry from retailers like Nordstrom Rack and Ross was found to contain over 3000% more cadmium than is deemed safe for wearing. Cadmium is a highly toxic metal that harms not only the people who make this type of jewelry but also the people who wear it, and some of these pieces were found to be up to 90% pure cadmium. One of my friends last year had cadmium poisoning directly from his work as a jeweler and I really don’t wish cadmium poisoning on anyone. So trust your gut, if it sounds too cheap, it probably is.

5. Think outside the box:

Gifts don’t have to be elaborate or expensive to be treasured and meaningful to the recipient. This could be an opportunity to go DIY and make something for your loved ones. As a jeweler, I have to say this is one of my favorites and I often make handmade gifts (it’s not always jewelry either, I’ve made things like hand blown glass ornaments before). I love being able to create something special for the people I’m close to in my life. Or if they have a cause they are super passionate about, maybe donate to that charity or cause in their name for a gift that will have real impact.

Shopping you values and crossing those gifts off your list doesn’t have to be a challenge. So tell us below, what are your plans for holiday gifting? Do you find it hard to shop your values, especially with all the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales and what do you think would make it easier for you?