Why Your Last Minute Gifts Matter.

It feels like the holidays snuck up on all of us this year. From coworkers to friends, I keep hearing the same refrain, “I can’t believe it’s almost Christmas.”

With only five days left, I’ve still yet to purchase all the presents on my list. I feel almost guilty admitting it, but it’s true.

Sadly, I’ve missed most shipping deadlines for online stores. And though I could race to the nearest mall, I don’t want to just buy anything. I want to be one of those people who walks the walk, and that requires a little more effort than shopping the best bargain. Even when I procrastinate.

It’s a tough thing to consider this time of year, but the reality is that slave labor contributes to the production of at least 136 goods from 74 countries worldwide, according to the organization Walk Free. Modern slaves are making everything from video game consoles to, you guessed it, clothing. It goes without saying that this is one of the main reasons I hesitate when consuming.

There are laws in place to prohibit such treatment of humans — it’s technically illegal in every country — but Walk Free points out that it still exists everywhere.

Sadly, slavery generates $150 billion in illegal profits per year.

Modern slavery has grown so significantly, that during the holidays last year, the Pope released a statement from the Vatican asking consumers everywhere not to buy presents that could be made by modern slaves. He also said businesses “have a duty to be vigilant that forms of subjugation or human trafficking do not find their way into the distribution chain.”

While we all want to believe that companies take such realities to heart, we also must do our best to ensure the gifts we give are done so thoughtfully.

But before these facts and figures frighten you too much, take heart.

There are efficient ways to make sure you’re buying consciously, even in these last few shopping days. There’s several apps and websites dedicated to providing sustainable information so that you can make educated purchases.

The only Apps you need for last minute Christmas shopping: 

Good On You is a great app that offers detailed brand ratings that you can check from your phone. Anytime, anywhere.

Social Impact is an app that uses your phone’s GPS feature to locate responsible businesses within a 40-mile radius.

The Good Guide has collected tons of data to help scientifically rate corporations on whether their products are safe, green, healthy and ethical. The best part is that it allows barcode scanning so you can learn all the information before buying an item.

Instead is an app that allows you to ditch gifts for donations. You can substitute purchases by giving funds to various causes — such as Not For Sale, a campaign working to creatively fight modern slavery. While it’s not as easy to wrap, I think lots of friends and family members will be just as thankful.

The one thing I’ve learned through these digital aids is that it’s not just unreachable “ethical” companies that make items you can proudly give. There are many well-known corporations doing great work that often go unnoticed, like Patagonia and North Face. Both of which can be purchased at your local REI store. Or Apple, which was rated the “greenest gadget company” in 2014 by Greenpeace.

But if all else fails, gift cards are an incredible gift that can be easily purchased from all your favorite conscious brands online.

Good luck to all of my fellow late-shoppers, I know you’ll find the perfect gift for everyone on your list. And perhaps you’ll discover new ways to shop year round.