December 21—Four days before Christmas and ten days until New Year’s Eve and the “official” start of my Fair Trade movement. Before I begin, I want to define the parameters of my campaign to shop more ethically, with the goal of knowing where my purchases come from. More specifically, I hope to avoid buying anything made in sweatshops or made by children. Looking over the Christmas/Hanukkah gifts I’ve bought this year, I can see this will be difficult.
I bought a Sidney Crosby backpack with a holographic image of Crosby months ago, perfect for my eight year-old nephew, a huge fan. It was made in China and I doubt the zipper will last more than a couple of months, but his ecstatic voice over the phone when he opened it during Hanukkah swept my misgivings aside. Will it be possible to make him as happy next year with something not made in China? Will I go from being revered to being spurned?
Other questionable purchases this year include clothing for my kids, husband and parents, luggage, Lego, craft kits, a foot massager, a purse, laptop bag, and a wallet. If I eliminated everything made in places like Bangladesh, India and China under unknown circumstances, there would be hardly anything under the tree.
However, as a long -time supporter of Fair Trade (and as the organizer of an annual Fair Trade Sale in November) I do have some gifts made by artisans who received decent wages for their work: a silk scarf, beaded necklace, a silver ring, a woven scarf, tree ornaments, a silver bracelet, chocolate mint cookies, hot chocolate, tea and coffee. I even discovered that Cadbury sells Fair Trade chocolate; all the chocolate in my kids’ stockings will be fair trade.
So buying ethically-made chocolate in 2013 will be a breeze—Cadbury or Ten Thousand Villages. Clothing will be a lot harder. I’ll have to research brands to find out how they’re made and where, and I need to find items made fairly that my discerning daughters will wear. For now, I’ll avoid Wal-Mart and Sears, because of their association with the ill-fated Tazreen Factory, and Dollar stores, with their cheap, colorful array of things you didn’t know you needed until you saw them, will be a thing of the past.
Basically, if something is ridiculously cheap, chances are it was made in a sweatshop by someone working long hours for poor wages. And I won’t support companies that operate this way any longer. Therefore, my first goal of the new year will be to research clothing companies to see which ones adhere to ethical standards.