Shopping bargains that you get during your holidays can go a long way in giving someone a livelihood or a child an education. Here are three ways of mindful holiday shopping.
On a recent weekend trip to Bangkok with my sister, we came back to Singapore with so much stuff that you would think the clothes she got were given away for free. With a budget of S$200, she ended up with three additional check-in luggages filled with clothes, accessories, and trinkets. My sister is one of many Singaporeans who love using the weekends to travel to nearby shopping havens for a spree. Besides Bangkok, popular shopping spots that are a quick flight from Singapore include Hong Kong, Bali, and Kuala Lumpur.
The fun thing about such shopping trips is that you bring home outfits at a steal. There is nothing wrong with hunting down a bargain but have you ever stopped and asked how the demand for cheap items impacts communities, the people, and the environment where the production is done?
Where you spend your money speaks volumes. A person who has money to spend has the power to make a decision—do I give my money to a fast fashion brand for a bag that countless other females also own, or do I hand it to an artisan in exchange for the one-of-a-kind handbag that she painstakingly made by hand?
This simple question makes us more aware of our shopping habit, at the point of purchase. Other questions you can also ask are: Is this organic or biodegradable? Can buying this help support a small local business? Does the business hire locally, and empower the less fortunate?
By paying for something, you are indicating a demand for it. By asking these questions before paying, you can make the world a better place with your spending.
Conscious Shopping on Holiday
Many Asian countries are proud of their locally produced goods, and local craftsmen are usually engaged in the design, production, and manufacturing of the items. Buying from these local brands and co-operatives benefit the communities that produce these items, as the money goes directly back to them and not to pay a huge advertising agency for the snazzy advertisement seen on television or in a magazine.
A good way to start putting your money directly into local pockets is through the local food produce.
For example, the next time that you are in Taiwan, get locally grown organic tea leaves from Aurora. This social enterprise works with Taiwanese natives to deliver local produce such as tea leaves, coffee powder and snacks. These products are redolent of flavour and love, unlike the mass produced beverages sold in supermarkets. All proceeds from sales of their products go towards supporting the indigenous population of Taiwan.
Across the causeway from us, the capital of Malaysia houses The Good Shop, which aims to create a positive effect on the Malaysian community and the environment through shopping. The space offers curated products including clothes, accessories, shoes, food, and bodycare where proceeds from their sales go towards various initiatives including sending a child to school, creating work for the deaf-mute community, or preserving Malaysian tradition.
Closer to home, Singapore has its own collection of social enterprises that empower individuals through product sales. One such platform is Shop 4 Social, which gathers non-profit organisations and caring citizens together. The brands represented on the platform offer unique apparels and accessories that will give you an edge in fashion. As you enjoy your delightful purchase, feel a sense of pride and responsibility that your proceeds opened up opportunities for single mums and poor families to be self sufficient and independent.
Shopping can go beyond a mere transaction of cash. As money and goods change hands, the emotions of love and responsibility can also be communicated, which is the essence of mindful shopping. So the next time you want to buy something on your vacation, why not find out which social enterprise you can buy it from? You could gift the chance of an education or even just a school uniform to a girl with huge dreams.