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Toronto, Canada

312 Adelaide Street West, Suite 301
Toronto, Ontario - M5V 1R2
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How to Shop Ethically this Holiday Season (and Thereafter)

Written by Chloe Blair

Christmas is rapidly approaching and with it comes the hunt for the perfect presents for your friends and family! With this is mind, it’s always good to be aware of where your money is going. We are the “demand” part of supply and demand after all. It is important that the companies we choose to support have fair labour practices, are conscious of the environment in their production, and don’t use toxins in their products. What better way to say “Merry Christmas” than giving a gift you can feel good about!

Here are some things to keep in mind during your holiday shopping:


When buying clothing, it’s important to keep fabric in mind. The production of natural fibers is better for the environment and the products themselves feel better, wash better and keep their shape.

Some natural fibers include:

  • Cotton
  • Linen
  • Wool
  • Cashmere
  • Silk
  • Bamboo

Synthetic fibers are more readily available and cheaper for sure, but keep in mind these fabrics are composed of really harsh chemicals such as caustic soda, ammonia, acetone, sulphuric acid, dihydric alcohol, terephthalic acid, and… petroleum. They’re as bad for you as they are to pronounce. Do you really want those near your skin? Yeah. I though not. Watch out for rayon, polyester, nylon, acrylic and viscose. Basically anything that claims to be stain resistant and wrinkle-proof has probably been treated with chemicals you don’t want anywhere near your skin.


Just like synthetic fibers, a lot of the chemicals in cosmetics fall under the category of “Whoa, that’s harsh.”

Not to mention that many companies test on animals. Makeup, nail polish, moisturizers, and soaps make awesome Christmas gifts, however the amount of carcinogenic, hormone disrupting, toxic garbage that is pumped into these products is absurd. Even if a product says it’s all natural it’s very possible that you are falling into the trap of greenwashing.

To find out more about chemicals to avoid, EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database has all the information you need.

To save you some time, here are some products put to the test by yours truly. All natural products are almost-always more costly, but if you have it in the budget the rewards are worth it: OMButter London Nail PolishOsmia OrganicsFrigginlipbalmILIAAlima PureGreen BeaverFitglowbeautyLaccbeautyAionalive.

Independent Stores

For your other gift giving needs, try supporting independent. Original art always makes a great gift! Check out some galleries and see what they have in your price range. Prints are always an option, too. Antique markets, family run businesses, and otherwise independent stores often stock handmade, one of a kind products. These stores have infinite charm, just going there is like a present to yourself. They are also the stores that need your support to stay in business. Overall you will have a better shopping experience, have more pleasant interactions with the sales staff, and ultimately feel good about how you’ve spent your money.

Organized Non-Profits

A lot of non-profits raise money for their cause by selling products. These are products you can always feel good about knowing where your money is going as well as giving an awesome gift. I can personally vouch for Me to We and WWF. Me to We has products handmade by Mamas in Kenya, while WWF has a symbolic animal adoption program. I have a wrap bracelet from Me to We that I have had for years. It still looks brand new. I have also had a Meerkat and Polar Bear symbolically adopted in my name for Christmas! Buying Fairtrade items is also a guarantee that your products are ethical and sustainable.

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.