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This is the time of year that we think more about other people. No matter which of the holidays we celebrate most of us will probably end up buying a least a few gifts for family, friends, or coworkers.

There are a couple of ways to make the holidays better for people you don’t even know. There are ways to touch the lives of others and increase their wellbeing.

Something I bring up frequently, because I am highly aware of it, is buying socks for the homeless. While you are out shopping this year, if you happen to see some nice thick socks on sale, buy a few (or a dozen) and deliver them to your nearest shelter. I frequently find them at Costco and at the dollar stores.

Of course this time of year, it is easy to find places to give to – you can give your spare change to Salvation Army as you leave major stores, you can give a toy to Toys For Tots at most malls, and many offices and churches adopt a family and buy that family the items on their wish list.

Because most of us will be shopping more than usual, there is a huge way to impact other people’s lives – people you probably don’t think about much, and most likely will never meet or see. You can refuse to buy products that are made by child labor or in sweatshops. People are dying from working in factories in many places in the world – they are using toxic chemicals, working in dangerous buildings, etc. If you can help it, please don’t buy the products made by the companies that hire children and don’t consider the health or safety of their workers.

How can you avoid buying these products that are literally killing people? The best way is to buy used because that way you are protecting people as well as the environment (no new resources were used in creating the product). You might wonder how you could give a gift that has been used. I wouldn’t give used clothes for a present, but I would give a used vase, painting, jewelry, collectable, etc. You can find great used things at shopgoodwill.com and possibly at your local thrift store.

Another way to avoid products where workers are being harmed, and to help your neighbors, is to shop locally. Buy products like soap, food, clothing that are made in your city or state.  Again, this is beneficial on many levels – you aren’t buying from products made by child labor or in dangerous factories, you are helping your own local economy and you are lowering the environmental impact of the products you buy by reducing shipping (boats, planes, trains, trucks, etc.)

One of my favorite ways to help small businesses is to buy from Etsy. I buy handmade recycled and repurposed clothes from people sewing those clothes in their own homes. My favorite pieces of clothing have come from Etsy. I have also bought handmade journals, ceramics, jewelry, etc. from shops on Etsy.

And when it comes to chocolate and coffee, buy Fair Trade – buying Fair Trade will help the farmers make a living wage.

There are so many ways to give to people, care for the environment, and basically be a great global citizen during the holidays and every day. I’m not perfect about these things, and I am always learning new ways to vote with my dollars, but this is a case of every little bit helps. I hope you will decide to help too.  If we make a few changes, we can feel good about what we purchase all year.