By Karen Bil Ratzlaff, Staff Writer
As we start shopping for holiday gifts for family and friends it’s easy to be seduced by bargains–by the low, low prices offered in big box stores and in online mega stores. Unfortunately many of these “bargains” come with a high price in human suffering. The cocoa for those fancy chocolates was probably harvested by young African boys sold into slavery. That blouse may have been made by the forced labor of women in a Vietnamese sweat shop. That soccer ball may have been stitched by a trafficked Pakistani child chosen for his or her nimble fingers and good eyesight.
The horrific commonality in all these situations–long hours, dangerous work conditions, threats, physical abuse, low or no pay, little food–will not change as long as there are consumers willing to gobble up cheap goods and ignore the “back story” to their real cost.
Our choices as consumers can affect positive change in lives. As found on fightslaverynow.org: “An educated consumer is our best hope for ending this pervasive exploitation which ultimately harms us all.”
This Christmas, and throughout the year, as you buy gifts, clothing, coffee, etc. consider giving your patronage to businesses that will promote fair wages and good conditions for all workers.
Not sure where to start?
Buy from businesses that import or produce fair trade goods. Following is just a handful of the companies you might want to check out:
- Fair Indigo
- Trade as One
- Ten Thousand Villages
- Reach and Teach
- Maggie’s Organics (clothes)
- American Apparel
- Higher Ground Roasters (coffee)
- Divine Chocolate
- Bead for Life
- Beloveds Mercantile
- For 100s of other fair trade organizations, visit this page on Green America.
Buy from local small businesses that have ethical practices. I have a fondness for small businesses, but, just like some big businesses, not all are operated with a moral compass. When I find a business that offers good products, good service, treats their employees right and gives back to the community, I’m happy to pay a bit more.
Buy directly from artisans. Online storefronts like Etsy provide opportunities for you to buy wonderful products directly from artists and small businesses in the U.S. and abroad.
Buy from thrift stores. Secondhand stores are great resources for the community. Many fund programs and provide jobs and job training. It’s also a super eco-friendly and economical option!
Buy a goat or cow for a family in need. There are many wonderful organizations that provide opportunities to buy livestock and other items and services for those in need.
Do the research on your favorite brands and companies. Make it a goal this Christmas and on into 2014 to reduce your consumption of goods made by slaves.
We’d love to hear from you! What choices are you making this Christmas?