Student Spotlight: Valentine’s Day Special

We’re back with another Student Spotlight, this time courtesy of Elisabeth O’Toole, a Notre Dame junior from Duxbury, MA studying Economics. As February 14th creeps closer and closer, many of us are starting to put together a list of ideas for that special someone. With a socially conscious take on the heart-filled holiday, Elisabeth shares some ways that we can show a little love for more than just one person.

I’m here to write about a subject that is pretty close to my heart: shopping. Don’t get me wrong. I love social entrepreneurship, serving others, and giving back, but as a 21-year old female, I also admittedly love shopping. Since its that time of year to get something special for a significant other, why not spread your love out to more people that need it? I’ve put together four great ways to both make an impact AND make someone’s Valentine’s Day special!

Give Local: Find small businesses in your area and support them and your local economy through your purchase! Try out a new farmers market, or scope out a wide variety of local businesses using the American Express Shop Small Map. Consider buying a mug and a bag of coffee from a local roaster, or give a gift card to a locally owned restaurant.

Give to Artisans: Fair trade certified products have become more available to purchase in the U.S. By being certified, it ensures that artisans receive a fair value for their handiwork.  Ten Thousand Villages provides fair trade certified products in all of its stores nationwide. Keep an eye out for other handmade products as well; it might be more difficult for some artisans abroad to undergo the certification process, but some local stores such as ONE in Duxbury, MA respect their work and offer fair values for the goods. If you’re hoping to go the more traditional route, Fair Trade Campaigns has put together this great list of three chocolate, flower, and artisan goods companies that are offering DISCOUNTS!


Give Green: Buy organic or recycled! Source your produce for your romantic dinner from a farmers market. It will be healthier for you and your loved one, and you will be helping out a member of your community. If you’d rather just pick up a check than play chef, choose to swap a Sustain U apparel gift post-dinner; it will be made out of recycled goods and look snazzy!

Give Gifts that Give Back: Social enterprises these days are developing trendy products that both look (and smell) great and serve a greater purpose. Soapbox Soaps uses a one-for-one model to donate a bar of soap for every one purchased, while others, such as Alex & Ani, (RED), and Warby Parker donate a portion of proceeds to specific causes. Ask local retail stores how they give back to your community or to other charities, and share that information with the one receiving the gift. With these exciting ideas in mind, I can now indulge at least two of my passions – that is, social enterprise and shopping.  I hope you’ll join me!

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