How to be a Conscious Consumer this Christmas

Written by Ellie Hayter, who is the founder of Gaia & Vie.

How to be a Conscious Consumer this Christmas

You may have seen the infamous Pretty Little Thing 99% off Black Friday sale by now, and like me, you may be wondering how they could sell dresses and bikinis for 5p. Although these products cost nothing to you, they do have a hidden cost. A cost to the garment workers in third world countries, a cost to farmers and material producers and a cost to our environment.

Yet this year has been a tough one, between furlough and job losses, buying from the big names in ethical beauty, fashion and homeware can sometimes be out of our price range. Here are a few alternative, affordable tips to lowering your impact this holiday season

1. Shop Small

The Independent has found that one-fifth of small businesses are at risk of “going bust”, yet in terms of impact on our environment, smaller businesses tend to have smaller and more localised supply chains which emit less carbon per unit produced than the larger globalised ones used for chain store retail. Let’s not forget the smaller scale which they operate on- that also can’t be overlooked. On top of that, 68% of revenue from local businesses (as opposed to 33% from national chains) is reinvested into the community, so by supporting small, you are supporting your community too.

2. Look for certifications

Certifications are a signal to us when we are shopping. Many accredited bodies are there to help us make informed decisions about the ethical nature of the firm we are buying from. Here are some good ones to look out for:

  • Soil Association- ensures sustainable agricultural practises that do not degrade our farmland
  • Fair Trade- maintains a fair wage for the primary producers of the product (farmers, etc)
  • Cruelty Free- highlights how the product has not been used to test on animals
  • FSC- Forest Stewardship Council approved goods cover a range of environmental criteria, including replanting three trees for every one used and protecting the rights of indigenous land owners.


This is an amazing site that allows you to search for major brands and see a grade based on environmental and community impacts, human rights abuse, social justice and animal rights. It gives a complete assessment of these factors and breaks it down into one easy grade for you – so even if you are shopping with bigger brands this Christmas, you can do so with a complete understanding of the ethical values of the company. For example, if you are buying a new laptop, Better world Shopper shows that Microsoft has been graded an F overall, Acer had been given a D, yet HP comes in top with an A-. Now you can choose the perfect laptop, knowing the true impact of your purchase.

Lowering your impact this Christmas and becoming a ‘conscious consumer’ doesn’t have to mean spending triple the price on luxury ‘green’ presents. Informing yourself on what to look out for can see your shopping basket impact the world more positively. Remember every small change helps the bigger picture. Every purchase you make, impacts our planet, so make sure it’s for better, not for worse.

I would love to hear your comments and views, so feel free to contact me by email or message me on Instagram @gaiaandvie.

Ellie Hayter is the founder of Gaia & Vie. You can reach her on Instagram @gaiaandvie or via email at

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