How to Shop Your Values This Holiday Season

Can I tell you a secret? I really love giving gifts, and I’m often a little bit of a procrastinator when it comes to my holiday shopping. Anyone else in the same boat? A couple years ago 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 into too much detail but I buy things that generally fall into the categories of vintage, vegan, Fairtrade, or recycled/upcycled, favoring small brands and local businesses over multinational corporations. 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 these values with my gift shopping too. While it seems like a lot to think about and a lot of extra work, here are a few quick tips that make it easy to shop your values during the holiday season.

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. 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 more generous seam allowance. Also look for natural fibers like linen and cotton, they tend to withstand 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. How evident is the attention to detail? If you can’t see an opening in the rings, chances are it’s built to last beyond this season.

Check Out Local Holiday Markets

This year consider ditching Amazon in favor of local businesses and makers. 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 small batch products, making it easy to find a really unique gift. Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these holiday markets have taken to social media and the internet, making it easy to shop local while keeping your social distance. San Diego Made Holiday Market, Renegade Market LA, and Unique LA are just a few you can find in Southern California, be sure to check out their digital holiday markets. 

Don’t be Afraid to Ask Questions

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 clothing or beauty products though, the salesperson might not 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 or use animal products. On the app Goods Unite Us, you can even check a brand’s political contributions to see if they align with your values. So much information, right at our fingertips!

If It Seems too Cheap, It Probably Is

Everyone loves a deal, but if it seems “too cheap,” it probably is. Just take this 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 cheap and 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 had cadmium poisoning directly from his work as a jeweler and I really don’t wish cadmium poisoning on anyone. And this doesn’t even go into the opaque supply chains, environmental impacts, or human rights impacts of purchases like fast fashion and costume jewelry. So trust your gut, if it sounds too cheap, it likely is. While the price may be low, the true cost may be high.

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 for my loved ones (it’s not always jewelry either). I love being able to create something special for the people I’m close to. 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 a far reaching impact. 

Shopping your values and crossing those gifts off your list doesn’t have to be a challenge. Apps like Good on You, Cruelty Free, and Goods Unite Us also make it easier than ever to see if a brand’s values match up with yours. I hope these tips help empower you to shop your values this holiday season and find gifts your loved ones will truly cherish.