This Christmas, I decided that the usual shopping rush should at least have a bit more sense than in previous years. Every year it feels that some of the presents I make are the fruit of a panic buying trip and I find this quite frustrating. I like nothing more than finding a well suited present for someone, when you know the person at the receiving end will actually be super happy and not think “ I would rather have had the money and buy something myself. What a waste.” Let’s be honest, this happens far too often – to me included!
Having started a journey where I try to act more responsibly in my everyday life (this is a slow journey) I thought the 2016 Christmas shopping bonanza could be an opportunity to start changing some of my consumption behaviours for the best.
I tried to focus on:
- small, local shops vs. mainstream national/ global brands
- made in France vs made in China
- made with organic/ sustainable materials, gentle on the environment
Of course I did not manage to abide by these rules for all my Christmas shopping but I’ve really enjoyed researching and finding out about new places and brands and I know in the future I will be doing more of this, more often. I mean, yes, I’ve even enjoyed some of my Christmas shopping this year!
The power of Instagram:
Thanks to Instagram, I’ve found out about a lot of small businesses, very often being run by mums who have not gone back to full time employment after having children. I tend to find their stories very inspiring and I’m quietly jealous to not have found a golden idea for myself. Most of the items I saw being home and hand made, they required a certain amount of time before delivery and I was a bit too late to hit the Christmas deadline but I’ve started a list of businesses that I will definitely tap into for future birthdays and other occasions requiring presents. Most of these small businesses are French, a handful British and my challenge for this new year is to also find some here in the US. Small is the future!
The power of blogs:
I knew I would do most of my shopping in Toulouse as we could not load our bags much from the US – and to be honest, I had not found a lot of things to bring back from Michigan. Not that I mean there is nothing worth buying here, but I have not had the time to properly explore and find shops I really like. The coming weeks may help address that point.
I grew up in Toulouse and consider this is home, but I need to be frank: I moved away 16 years ago and I’m not totally up to date with its shops out of the main streets and mainstream brands. So I started browsing online for small local shops in Toulouse and I found by chance a great blog written by a girl from Toulouse, called Lucie Paimblanc (I love her name!). She actually has two blogs, equally interesting. In her “je deviens ecolo” blog, I found out a couple of good addresses in Toulouse, and I have to thank her for that as I made a lot of presents from there! I ended up walking up and down the rue St Ursule, that I barely knew of, and where I encountered three great shops where I was quite happy to spend some of my money.
- Slow Concept:
10 rue Sainte Ursule, 31000 Toulouse (France)
This concept store sells lots of different products/ brands that all have in common to be ethically designed. It is a very enjoyable shop to visit as there are lots of different things to look at, all beautifully presented and you can find a lot of inspiration for presents, big or small.
There I found my very own Christmas present, a new purse made with the remaining bits of leather used in a glove factory. The scrap leather that should end up in a bin have been turned into beautiful purses by the team at Paperthinks. They describe their products as a non compromise between being green and being stylish. I had checked some purses in the Longchamp corner the day before and I can honestly say I much, much prefer my Paperthinks! Not to mention it was a fraction of the price of the Longchamp ones.
I also got some Moe soaps – Moe is a brand of ecological soaps created by a lady from Toulouse. They look beautiful and are made with natural ingredients. I was particularly excited about them as this is a category where it’s easy to be more ecological. How difficult is it to stop buying the usual plastic container with liquid soap made with lots of chemicals we do not know about, and instead get a good old soap bar? It also happens to be cheaper! I kept two of the soaps for my baby and me and put the third one in my sister green beauty hamper.
My sister is really into ecological products so I made her a beauty hamper with products from Slow Concept. I got her an assortment of Lamazuna products (solid shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste etc) and put them all in a small basket made with scrap fabric recycled from a t shirt factory. That sounds weird but these baskets look fab! I just cannot find the brand again but will hunt it down.
15, rue Sainte Ursule, 31000 Toulouse (France)
This is a beautiful design shop with carefully selected items. The owner is a lovely lady and you can sense she’s passionate about the different brands and products she’s chosen to showcase in her shop. There, I found out about a made in France brand called Reine Mere, which makes beautiful eco designed wooden object. I bought a beautiful necklaces holder for my sis in law. It is something that is both useful and beautiful, designed and made in France using sustainable wood. The perfect present! I’ve started following the brand on IG and will definitely come back to this shop next time I’m in Toulouse, at least just for the pleasure of looking at any new things they have in store!
- Arrow workshop: la mercerie moderne
11, rue Sainte Ursule, 31000 Toulouse (France)
This is different from the two shops above as it is a haberdashery but how exciting to walk into one that looks so nice and inviting. I had been following them on IG for some time so I sort of knew what to expect and I was not disappointed. They have a lovely selection of beautiful fabric and wool and plenty of other stuff and the people there were super nice and helpful. I got a couple of things to take back with me to entertain myself with while Louise is asleep! I do need to improve my sewing skills!
So my challenge now that we’re back in Detroit is to go on the hunt for small, ethical, local businesses here in Michigan and carry on my journey of better living and smarter consumption. Hopefully more updates to come soon!