I am so torn between hating the consumerism and also loving to give and receive gifts. The jam packed mall and the pushy shoppers kind of annoy me but also kind of heart warm me. The time of the year when we spend the most is the time of the year when we are buying gifts for everyone we love! I think my ideal situation would be that we are buying gifts for people we love and that those gifts are directly benefiting the people who made them as well as the people who are getting them. I love fair trade stores and the entire concept of fair trade items but it frustrates me that this is not the norm. Why are there specialty fair trade stores? Where do the items I buy from Target actually come from? I want to get people items that they actually want but I just don't know where to find a fair trade video game for my little brother.
But I also feel like it can be complicated. For example a sweat shop sounds like a horrible thing that should be shut down. Bad working conditions, low pay, these are obviously not good things. But people are choosing to work at these factories by choice. And often that is because they do not have other employment options in their country. We complain about our ten percent unemployment rate in America but if we were facing 80% unemployment maybe a sweat shop wouldn't look like the worst thing in the world. When I was in high school there was some school club that wanted to get sweat shops shut down. I think they had t shirts and everything. I always thought shutting down a sweatshop was the stupidest thing. Obviously people would rather have really crappy jobs than no jobs at all!
The importance of being an educated consumer has been drilled into me the past few years. I have power because I buy things. Maybe this is obvious to everyone else but it was almost a brand new concept to me. If I (and others) never bought a product that was made through exploitation and corruption then stores would stop selling them! It is so easy to blame big corporations for their corruption but we the consumer are the real ones with the power! Its something I have to remind myself of when I am at the store. I could buy regular cocoa powder at the grocery store or for about twice as much I could buy fair trade cocoa. Is it worth the extra $3 to know that no children were involved in the picking of this coco? Or eco friendly sugar. Is it worth $4 more to know that the rain forest are not being cut down or the land ruined in the farming of that sugar cane?
Well having spent much of the last two years living next to a rain forest which will be cut down to produce more sugar I have to say YES! It is worth the extra $3! But even though I have such a tangible example, a rain forest I really care about, I still have to work to remind myself to use less sugar and to buy eco friendly.
Rant over. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. Here are some of my favorite fair trade Christmas items!
1. Tons of gift possiblities from Ten Thousand Villages.
|Nativity card. (LOVE)|
|Fair trade organic baking cocoa|
|Pressed flowers. I could die.|
|Fair trade chocolate advent calendar|
These pictures are from a recent trip to Ten Thousand Villages. The items are from Pakistan, India, Ghana, Ukraine and somewhere else I can't remember. I basically want everything from that store. It is run by the Mennonite church and I think each store has one paid manager and the rest are volunteers. This store also has books with tons of useful 'responsible consumer' information. I got a book there last year which ranks popular stores and companies based on their impact on the countries where they have factories and their impact on the environment.
2. Christmas gifts from Haiti!
This Christmas gift basket is from the Apparent Project. Follow that link to see all of their fair trade christmas gifts! The money goes to some amazing hard working artists in Port au Prince. Plus this one has the added bonus that a whole bunch of people I love work here!
3. 31 Bits from Uganda!
I love love love these small paper bead necklaces from Uganda. The money goes to women of the Acholi tribe (Denis' tribe). They have been living through a war for the last 25 years. They had to move away from their land and find new ways of surviving. So they roll beads out of paper!
4. Gifts from World Vision
You can choose from dozens of animals to give to families in need all over the world. This rabbit costs $16. The animals range in price from $10 to $1000. A cow that gives milk can literally change someones life in a developing country. Seriously I wish I owned a cow in Uganda. All of our family cows live far away up in the north. I can't get milk from there!
5. Sseko sandals from Uganda!
I am obsessed with these sandals from Uganda! They also have adorable clutches. "Sseko Designs hires recent secondary school graduates for this nine month period to live and work together, while earning money that will go directly towards their university education. These women will not make sandals forever. They will go on to be doctors, lawyers, politicians, writers and teachers that will bring change and unification to a country divided and ravished by a 25 year-long war." I love that this company hires woman to specifically make enough money to go on to college so they don't spend their entire lives sewing sandals.
6. Tons more fair trade resources and hand made gifts resources can be found at Rage Against the Minivan. One of my favorite blogs.
Lastly this is my favorite Christmas video ever made. I beg you to watch it. I think this captures the real spirit of Christmas. This is from the Advent Conspiracy. Turn up the volume and make it big screen.
Merry Christmas friends!