December Eco Challenge: Shop Small, Shop Local

Whether or not you think it’s the most wonderful time of the year, Christmas is a boom time for most retailers. From Coca-Cola to the ever inventive John Lewis advert, there are so many household brands we associate with the festive season. But what if you want to avoid those big names, and try something a little simpler? 

Well, you may be onto something as shopping with small, local retailers is often more sustainable. In 2019 consultancy McKinsey found that 90% of company environmental impacts come from their supply chain, and unfortunately the bigger the business the bigger the supply chain is. Bigger manufacturing and logistics operations by large chains create more carbon emissions, but that’s not all. Large supply chains can also obscure the origins of materials used in products. Unethical materials like unsustainably sourced timber, irresponsibly mined metals and cotton-picked by slave labour can end up in the products sold in these UK stores.

For example, 20% of the world’s cotton comes from Xinjiang province, China, where it is nearly certain that it is picked by the Uighur minority under conditions of forced labour. Once absorbed into the supply chain, it is near impossible to know where it goes, meaning many brands may be inadvertently using it. Elsewhere, Ikea also attracted scandal in 2020 when it was revealed illegally forested timber from boreal forests in Russia had found its way into the company’s furniture. The lack of transparency in Ikea’s large supply chain allowed this to happen. 

Today is Small Business Saturday, so at Go Eco we’re encouraging you to shop small and local for Christmas. Small retailers need our support, especially after the pandemic. They are also less likely to have polluting supply chains and often hand-select their suppliers, so no nasty surprises will go into making your gifts. 

Follow our tips below to make your Christmas shopping more ethical, and hopefully more fun!

1 – Go and Explore 

We know that after a long day at work it’s tempting to reach for familiar websites when it’s time to do your Christmas shopping – don’t! Browse online for small retailers instead. Etsy is a good place to start, but other online marketplaces like Indie Retail and Locally UK are also excellent resources for finding hidden gems.  

If you’re feeling up to braving the cold, search your local high street for small retailers who need your support. Maybe there’s a shop you’ve always walked past and liked the look of; now is your chance to go inside!

Top tip: if you see something you like on Amazon and it’s being sold by a small retailer, Google their name and buy it directly from the company website. That way they won’t have to give Amazon a cut! 

2 – Find a Match 

Anything you can find at a large chain will have a counterpart in a small business. If you’re browsing in H&M and see something you like, use it as inspiration to go boutique hunting. 

If you’re thinking of buying consumable goods like candles, chocolates or bathroom goodies there really is no excuse not to buy from small retailers. There are so many great artisans out there! 

3 – Tell your friends 

As always – tell your friends what you’re up to! At Go Eco we’re all about starting conversations and raising awareness. We bet you and your pals will love sharing the hidden-gem boutiques you found your gifts at; far more interesting than saying you bought everything on Amazon!

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