BY: GOWRI ABHINANDA

Web Features Editor

As many Americans head on their way to the mall to go shopping for the best holiday deals, climate and racial justice activists urge others to be conscientious of their shopping decisions. Climate activist and senior Jordana Rockley said there is an issue of mass consumerism in America that contributes to waste in the environment. Rockley said she encourages that people educate themselves to be more mindful of alternatives beyond what hits the market.

“A lot of the families that are going out to buy on these shopping sprees aren’t keeping in mind sustainability and that they don’t have to buy at every new wholesale, and that you don’t have to buy at every 50 percent off sale,” Rockley said. “That’s the really scary part, the lack of awareness that reusing and renewing is an alternative and is a very real alternative that can be very productive and sustainable for all of us.” 

Rockley said individuals should look into more sustainable options like reusing gifts by refurbishing them to avoid contributing to food insecurity and deforestation. She said the choices consumers make can make or break the detriment that is unleashed on the environment.

“We can see these shopping sprees contribute to climate change with mass landfills piling up and I don’t want to live on a planet where there are cabbage patches of plastic; I don’t want to see the ecosystem and the biodiversity and the waters go down because that leads to food scarcity,” Rockley said. “I don’t want to see the destruction that comes along with deforestation for more industries to contribute to more shopping sprees, it’s really a really toxic economy that we live in, but consumers hold the power to change that.”

AP Environmental Science teacher Laura Ashley said that in her classes she always makes it a point to educate her students on sustainable options. Ashley said it’s important to educate students on sustainability to help prevent contributing to climate change.

“I tell my students to research, look up and see if the products you are interested in buying come from sustainable means, or from a company that supports sustainability,” Ashley said. “I also tell them to ask what people actually want or need before they buy them something, and if you don’t know, you can always buy a native plant or seeds for them to grow instead of something useless that may just end up in a landfill.”

Ashley said many students hold a misconception that shopping for sustainable options is difficult. She said this is because they believe there aren’t many alternatives to look into; however, she advises them to conduct research to find sustainable options to the items they want to purchase because there are a variety of options.

“I recommend researching products and companies and see what is out there and all the different choices there may be, also if they already know what they want to get, they can always again, do research and see if there is a sustainable alternative available,” Ashley said. “Students will be surprised by how many environmentally friendly/sustainable products there are out there if you just search.”

Black Lives Matter advocate and sophomore Camille Esin said holiday shoppers should be cognizant of the impacts their shopping has on Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) businesses. Esin said she often tries to support BIPOC businesses as they are deprived of support due to major stores that garner more attention, which she said has driven her to become a more ethical shopper.

“The holiday shopping season can make or break businesses, therefore, it is important to know what kind of businesses you are supporting,” Esin said. “For example, I care a lot about ethical consumerism, so I try my best not to buy from Amazon during the holidays to support small BIPOC-owned businesses, students should be aware of where they shop from because it impacts a lot of people’s livelihood.”

Esin said holiday shopping is built around the economic system of capitalism, which encourages more consumerism at the expense of marginalized folks. She said individuals should try to rectify these racist trends by shopping from BIPOC businesses. 

“It is important to shop from Black-owned and Indigenous businesses because capitalism was literally built off of the labor of black and indigenous people, yet they receive none of the benefits,” Esin said. “Shopping at Black and Indigenous businesses allow for their businesses to grow despite the systematic oppression fighting against them.”

BLM activist and Debate teacher Rachel West echoed Esin’s sentiment and said it is essential that students support BIPOC-owned businesses. West said it’s especially important as it will help families sidelined by the pandemic. 

“Shopping at BIPOC businesses is bit only a form of restorative justice, but it’s also a tool for reparations,” West said. “You are putting money directly into the pockets of those wronged for centuries, and thus they can build generational wealth for their families.”

West said she believes it is important to also shop sustainably as this will also prevent BIPOC individuals from being harmed. She said climate change and justice for BIPOC folk is an intersection, and both must be addressed to prevent the further loss of life. 

“Climate change hits BIPOC the hardest, we can look to natural disasters, those that are most heavily affected are BIPOC and low-income individuals,” West said. “If climate change were to get worse, we will see a direct impact on these communities, from homes to businesses, to schools; that can cause generations of damage.” 

Rockley said climate change affects BIPOC communities the hardest. She said she is irked by this fact, which is why she pushes herself to advocate for these intersections as an activist to help these communities.

“I believe that we should all feel safe in the environment we live in, and unfortunately, the individuals who are most affected by [climate change] are those who are under-resourced and underprivileged,” Rockley said. “This scares me, and this has given me the obligation to hold myself accountable, and I tell myself that if there’s anything I can do to spread awareness, I should do it; it makes a difference, so we need to keep trying.”

In addition to raising awareness, Rockley said she makes Do It Yourself (DIY) gifts for the holidays. She said this is a creative outlet that she likes utilizing to practice sustainability as it is more personal.

“I actually love to make my own personalized gifts because I think it’s a lot more personable, and I think it means a lot more than when you just go out into a store and spend money,” Rockley said. “I think it’s a lot more impactful when it comes from the heart.” 

Over the holidays, West said she will shop at Modern Alchemy, a Black-owned business for her hair care, and Nerdy Native for Indigenous bead-working and art. She said she hopes her other students will follow suit in supporting BIPOC businesses to make positive change.

“Shopping is not just about throwing money, it’s an investment into a community, the best way to start is to reach out to that community,” West said. “When people start supporting these businesses, it feels like a big win and a step towards a better future.”