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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Think ethical and relieve the stress of Christmas

This opinion piece is over 8 years old

Scotland's social enterprises offer fantastic alternatives to mainstream presents writes Duncan Thorp

It’s that time of year again. Frenzied gift shopping for parents, children and friends, mountains of food and of course the sales, including “Black Friday”, make the whole experience more intense than ever before.

But there are alternatives, many of them in fact. When we buy gifts we can choose the social enterprise alternatives. The Big Issue Shop, Run Native and Ethical Superstore are some of the increasing numbers of shopping websites for people wanting something more sustainable, with a great mix of ethical, environmentally-friendly and social enterprise retailers.

Scotland is leading the way in social enterprise goods and creative gifts. You could shop at Greetings From Leith for handmade cards, Kidzeco in West Lothian for affordable, high quality children’s clothes and toys, Cope Ltd (including The Shetland Soap Company etc), Ragtag on Skye for handmade textile gifts, helping those with mental health issues and Glasgow Wood Recycling, for environmentally-friendly home and garden reclaimed wood products.

 We should think more “work-to-provide” instead of “work-to-consume”. In fact some things we think we need to buy we can simply borrow or hire
We should think more “work-to-provide” instead of “work-to-consume”. In fact some things we think we need to buy we can simply borrow or hire

There are many others, including Empowerment Pants from MsMissMrs to help women and girls increase self-awareness and self-esteem, Grassmarket Tartans clothing, helping vulnerable people in Edinburgh, Rainbow Turtle Fair Trade shop in Paisley - or why not buy someone an outdoor activity at My Adventure or Port Edgar Watersports?

Ethical Consumer Magazine helps people make better shopping choices. It’s worth having a look to compare high street retailers on a range of criteria, from workers’ rights to environmental records - and find some of the ethical alternatives. We all have choices of some kind. We can look at our own consumer behaviour, particularly in times of debt, low pay and over-consumption. When we look into it a bit more we can discover a huge range of ethical goods and services.

Festive seasons should be times of celebration and people coming together. Too often they’re about material wealth and create anxiety and stress, with the all-invasive power of advertising. We should think more “work-to-provide” instead of “work-to-consume”. In fact some things we think we need to buy we can simply borrow or hire from Edinburgh Tool Library or similar social enterprise initiatives.

Particularly at this time of year it’s also important to know that your local credit union is a more affordable, safer and ethical alternative to the expensive trap of dodgy payday and doorstep lenders - another example of the social enterprise alternative.

Of course better shopping choices shouldn’t just be a nice thing to do over a few weeks in winter, we can do this all year round. Don’t buy things you don’t need - but when you do shop choose the positive alternative that’s good for all of us, choose social enterprise.

Duncan Thorp is the parliamentary policy and communications officer at Social Enterprise Scotland