Several years ago, I was introduced to the concept of fair trade. I was astonished to learn that some—no, most companies I bought from fell grossly short of my idea of ethics. Since then, I have started boycotting certain companies that are well-known for buying from sweatshops or areas in which child slavery is prevalent. (As a rule, I only boycott based on human rights issues…if I boycotted every company I had some disagreement with, I’d be in quite the pickle!)
My biggest change has been only buying chocolate that is fair-trade certified or otherwise indicated to be ethically sourced. This means never buying a cupcake at a restaurant, never buying Hershey’s anything, never getting chocolate ice cream at the grocery store, never ordering a mocha again. It seemed like a huge hill to climb at first, but chocolate is meant to be a treat, right? Now, it really is much more of a treat than it was before and, considering mainstream cocoa companies buy their cocoa from the Ivory Coast where kidnapped children are used to pick the beans, that’s a “sacrifice” I’m more than willing to make. (You can read more about the cocoa industry and where to buy chocolate here!)
I have also stopped shopping with Forever 21 and other suspiciously cheap clothing companies. My next step is to buy more from the companies who are making the effort to be fair, sustainable and ethical. It’s definitely not easy to be part of the small percentage of businesses who hold themselves to that standard, and I want to support them. (You can read more about what it means for something to be fair trade here.) Along with vowing to pay every worker fairly, from the farmer to the factory worker, I want to support businesses that take ecological sustainability into consideration. As a Christian, caring for the beautiful planet God has given us is deeply important to me. Last, but not least, I always take note of business that “give back.” There is nothing wrong with making profit for yourself, but I love knowing that my money is going back into my community (shopping locally) my country (made in the U.S.) or to give someone a hand-up from poverty. These are the criteria for the list I have compiled here.
Christmastime is my favorite. At Christmas, we try to make the world as happy, peaceful and beautiful as we wish it really was, year-round. We hug our relatives, wrap up pretty presents, cook delicious foods, greet perfect strangers at the store, hang tinsel and garland and sing silly songs (or is that just me?) It’s a great reminder that, with the right attitude and a little extra effort, we can really make the world a better place. There’s no better time to really make an impact, world-wide! Nearly everyone is spending a lot of money this time of year. As Anna Lappe said, “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” The question is, where is your money going and what it is it really going toward?
With all these thoughts in mind, here are some ideas to get you started on a path to a more world-friendly Christmas shopping season.
1. Daisy Hair Clip, handmade in Haiti. $3.00 at jesuseconomy.com
Jesus’ Economy is new to me. They have items from Haiti, Africa and South America including jewelry, home goods and adorable baby blankets. It seems like they are really about getting to the root of poverty, and I love that. Read more about their agenda here.
2. Discovery Skirt, Blue. $46.99 at matatraders.com
I just discovered Mata Traders and can’t wait to start shopping there in the future! They have lovely jewelry and women’s clothing. Mata provides jobs for women in India and Nepal—they even create their own prints!
3. Lacy Light Candleholder, Small. $18.99 at tenthousandvillages.com.
Ten Thousand Villages is a veteran fair trade company I love! They have all kinds of items from all over the world. This beautiful luminary is made in Vietnam.
4. Lelitha Slouch Pants $59.00 from Sudara.org
I love the pajama pants I have from Sudara! All of their items are made by women in India who were previously sold into sex slavery. These slouch pants look cute and oh-so-comfy.
5. Sweet Santa Treats, $4.95 from Mama-Ganache.com
I had the pleasure of sampling several chocolates from Mama Ganache this year and they were delicious! Since “going fair” with chocolate, I have become super picky. Most fair trade chocolate is also organic, artisanal chocolate and therefore, gourmet! Not all chocolate is created equal, but I really liked Mama Ganache. They even have cocoa mixes, chocolate boxes and cocoa sold in bulk! These cute treats come in milk or dark chocolate and would make a great stocking stuffer.
6. Green Madras, Set of 4 Cotton Napkins, $22.50 at ComeTogetherTrading.Com
I have enjoyed Come Together Trading for some time, but they have really improved their home goods section since last time I shopped! I loved seeing their table clothes, towels and napkins such as these Green Madras napkins, made in India. Plus: cloth napkins are an eco-friendly choice!
7. Bucket Tote in Florentine, $44.00 at JoynIndia.com
I have a darling little zipper bag from Joyn and I would love to shop there more. They seem to have a very high standard of quality. The latest thing that caught my eye was their bucket totes. Cute!
8. La Vela Bracelet, $23.99 at noondaycollection.com
Noonday has taken the world by storm. A Texas-based, multi-level marketing business empowers women in the U.S. and abroad by bringing a fair trade boutique into your own home. I have a gorgeous scarf from Noonday and I really like the look of this bracelet, made in Guatemala.
9. Color By Nature Twig Pencils, $20.99 at tenthousandvillages.com
Okay, cute! This would be a great gift for a neice or nephew, or even a stocking stuffer for an artistic spouse. These colored pencils are handmade in Chile and come in a burlap pouch.
10. Baby Booties, $25 at cometogethertrading.com
Um, how could I choose just one pair? They have so many adorable choices! I love that these are made from wool in Kyrgyzstan.
11. Sasi PJ Pants for girls, $29.00 at sudara.com
They have tees and pajama pants for kids now too…eep!
12. Cherubic Batik, baby blanket. $40.00 at jesuseconomy.com
These look so soft and sweet. Handmade in Haiti.
13. Youth Ankle Socks, 3-pack. $18.00 at Bombas.com
Bombas makes all styles of socks for all ages (including toddler,) all of which are supposed to be engineered to be super durable and comfortable. But the coolest thing? For every pair of socks you buy from Bombas, they donate a pair of their socks to the homeless in the U.S.—awesome!
14. Kendal Sweatshirt, $45.00 at tonle.com
I love a good sweatshirt, but how about a sweatshirt for good? Not only do Tonlé’s clothes look cute and well-made, they are a committed zero-waste company. Everything they make is produced from recycled materials in a fair trade work environment in Cambodia. Impressive!
15. Sisterhood Candle, $48.00 at preemptive-love.com.
Hand-poured candles in hand-painted ceramics would be special, even if you didn’t know they were crafted by refugees in Iraq. Preemptive Love provides life-saving heart surgeries for children in conflict zones, emergency relief for those misplaced by ISIS and so much more.
16. E-Reader Sleeve, $5.50 at freesetusa.com
I’ve been a FreeSet fan for a long time. They create needed jobs in India and the states. They make bags and tee shirts which can be customized for your company or team. I like this unique e-reader sleeve!
17. “Bee Loved” muslin swaddle, $14.95 at thelittlebeeco.com
Muslin swaddles are all the rage right now (trust me, I work at a baby boutique!) and for good reason. They are easy to use, super soft and cute and really work! The Little Bee Co. is best known for the reusable diapers and “buy-one-give-one” policy, but their new line of Bee Loved swaddles, blankets, wet bags and apparel is super tempting…
18. Ethical gift wrap, gift bags and gift tags!
It only makes sense to “wrap up” the list this way! Freeset makes reusable gift bags, including cute wine bags with bamboo handles.
Ten Thousand Villages has Sari gift wrap, gift bags and Christmas cards!
Tonlé has greeting cards, gift tags and cute, fabric gift bags.
(Please note, I do not have any professional associations with any of these companies.)
Remember, think before you buy this Christmas! Every penny you spend either makes the world a sadder, or gladder place to live. Is it eco-frindly, fair-trade, made in the U.S., used, recycled or does it give back? These are great questions to ask—and to teach your kids to ask—as you celebrate Christmas. 2,000 years ago, a poor, refugee child received gold, frankincense and myrrh. What gifts will you give to remind you of His gift?
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14