Gifts have been exchanged, returned and donated. Sales racks scoured. But what happened to that resolution to be more eco-conscious and sustainable, it always seems to go sideways in the frenzy of holiday shopping or impulse purchases on Hallmark holidays (check the calendar: Valentine's Day is around the corner). As concerned as we are about the planet (according to the Pew Research Center, nearly three-quarters of Americans see global climate change as a "very serious" (45%) or "somewhat serious" (29%) threat, and two-thirds (66%) say people will have to make major changes in the way they live to reduce the effects of climate change), we just can't stop shopping. Holiday sales in 2015 increased 3 percent to $626.1 billion - a solid performance given the uncertainty in the global economy.
Retail has - and will - continue to play an important role in growing the U.S. economy, but what if our pocket books aligned with our attitudes too? Millennials - aka 18 to 34 year-olds - are the largest generation in the American workforce today. They pack a whole lot of consumer punch and survey after survey indicates they are interested in products with an impact and/or products that are responsibly made. But will they buy it - and truly shift the retail production and marketing landscape?
Zady, a lifestyle destination for conscious consumers (founded by Millennials Soraya Darabi (Foodspotting; The New York Times) and Maxine Bdat (The Bootstrap Project) ) is one of a recent number of e-commerce sites, testing the Millennial attitude against their pocketbooks. As Zady states on their website:
We have serious challenges ahead of us. As citizens we're going to have to come up with more than a plan to turn our lights off and recycle our plastic, and corporate citizens will have to shift to a growth model that accounts for the true cost of production.
Corporations are always looking to innovate. The next great innovations will be coming up with sustainable growth solution.
At Zady we're working to demonstrate the future corporation. We're embedding transparency into everything we do. We work to develop quality products, products that aren't just marketed to get the consumer to buy them, but products that are created with the user in mind. We are not externalizing corporate responsibility into a separate department, the responsibility we have as a corporation of the future is to build a sustainable means of dressing the global population.
To get an idea of other sustainable products, and shift my own gift purchasing habits (I may not be a Millennial in age, but I am one in attitude), I turned to Angela Jia Kim, a former concert pianist turned accidental entrepreneur and eco-beauty guru. Under Angela's Savor The Success brand umbrella, is eco-chic boutique Savor Spa. In addition to using organic and sustainable ingredients in all their products, Savor Spa gives back: last year they committed to donating a portion of every facial and massage to build a schoolhouse for children in Nicaragua with partner, Pencils Of Promise.
If you've got to spend, then spend with the planet and future generations in mind. Here are Angela's suggestions for purchasing with an impact:
- Lucy & Leo: Organic children clothing made in New York. Founder Rachel Mednick uses her company to provide stylish sustainable clothing while planting a tree for every garment that is purchased.
- Kohana Coffee: Gourmet Hawaiian coffee made from fair trade organic beans. Founder Victoria Lynden is a member of 1% for the Planet.
- Cool Treats for Dogs: Banana Peanut Bacon Ice Cream for dogs! Healthy yogurt-based treats that has good probiotics for our furry friends.
- Rustic Maka: Organic deodorant that works. Prepared in small batches and packaged in paper tubes & boxes, rice bags or BPA-free, recyclable plastic containers.
- Make My Notebook: Premium notebooks-hand silk screened, recycled paper, made in USA. Founder Sara Blette designs each cover.
- 27 Jewelry: The handmade jewelry, made from precious metals (which are for the most part recycled), is created by founder Lenka Svachova.
- Om Aroma & Co.: (Angela's own product line). Organic skincare made fresh daily in the Hudson Valley with ingredients such as Champagne, Caviar, and Truffles! Om Aroma hires moms who are transitioning back into work force after raising children through their Dollars & Scents program.
- Mozarts & Einsteins: A preschool dedicated to the arts in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Children learn dance, music, and a new language as building blocks. It is a mission-driven educational platform for the young.