Can we all agree shopping is hard? Maybe you happen to love one particular area of shopping (say, clothes?). I’ll give you one area…but I mean, across the board? Keeping up with all the household needs, groceries, clothes, underwear, birthday presents, teacher gifts, Halloween costumes, shoes…it seems like there is a never ending list and that I am always at some sort of store. Being a grown up made me not like shopping.
No one wants to add to this difficulty. When I talk to people about health and reading labels, they often reply that they don’t have time. Which I totally get (and then point them to Whole Foods). Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Unfortunately sticking our head in the sand and pretending our choices don’t matter doesn’t work. Our choices have consequences, for us and others.
I’m big into social justice. Ending slavery, clean water, adoption, poverty…I’ve done a lot of research on this stuff and am passionate about it. Last year in February when the End It Movement picked a day to raise awareness about the fact that slavery still exists, our family was all in. I researched a lot and I wrote about it. I wanted that day to be about more than just raising awareness for us. I wanted us to take specific steps to help end how we were supporting slavery in the purchase power we had.
And we did.
It hasn’t been a super easy journey. It has had inconveniences. It has had it’s slip ups. It has involved googling things in a store when all you want to do is grab and go. There has been label reading, and driving past places I really wanted to go. My husband has given up Reese’s Peanut Butter cups (read what I wrote to understand why), with a very rare relapses. That’s sacrifice y’all. Here is a bit of a progress report on how we are doing and some great resources of places to put your dollar for good.
One way I’ve been nailing it: coffee.
I have what some may consider an addiction to coffee. Whatevs. I do a lot and raise three kids. My bff has kombucha, I have caffeine. We all survive somehow. After all my research for February’s post, I was pretty convicted about the coffee I drink. None of it was free trade. Turns out you can’t even get free trade coffee at Starbucks (in the US, in the UK you can). So I took my visits WAY down. The green siren rarely resides in my hand these days. I also bought a french press, because um, the coffee is SO good! It also turns out that it’s much easier to get free trade coffee ground or unground in bags, and not in k-cups. I get the allegro brand at Whole Foods (but not all of them are free trade so read carefully). There are only two k-cup brands in most of my grocery stores that I can get free trade. One is Newman’s Own, and the other is Green Mountain Sumatra. I like a really dark roast, and while both are pretty good, they’re not quite punchy enough for me. I recently got Barrie House Organic & Fair Trade Certified Sumatra * and plan on ordering again. The k-cups are my quick weekday morning go to and french press rules on weekends and slower mornings.
While changing up our coffee routine was a bit disruptive at first, I’ve found a groove and usually end up with better coffee out of the deal. And we are saving money!
Another way I’ve been nailing it: accessories
I decided that with so many incredible organizations out there that produced beautiful jewelry, scarves, and bags there was no need for me to buy any of those items from any retailer that wasn’t supporting social justice. And I’ve pretty much stuck to that. Because items where the makers earn a fair wage are usually a significant investment, it has also helped me to be more thoughtful about accessory purchases. I have a general rule that I won’t purchase it unless I love it, and it’s versatile. A few pieces I have that I love are from Noonday Collection. There will probably be a couple more pieces on my Christmas list. This a great organization with equally great taste! One of my other loves are paper bead necklaces. I have…4. Three of which were purchased when the Daraja African children choir came to our church. Unfortunately the necklaces aren’t online (wah!), but find out when they are coming to an area near you and GO! Beautiful children, people, worship and jewelry…what more can you want?
An area I’ve been lukewarm on: clothes
Thankfully my research showed that a lot of my favorite places to shop do ok- to good on how they treat their workers. Still, between 5 of us, we buy a fair amount of clothes, and I’d be happier knowing that a good portion of that was actively helping social justice issues versus just not contributing to slavery. I think we can do better than just not contributing to it.
I’ve been trying to make more of mine and my daughters clothes, especially the trendy stuff. This makes me feel a bit better, but I still need to watch fabrics.
Another lukewarm area: chocolate
It’s really hard to find fair trade chocolate. When I do, it is CRAZY expensive. I’m not going without chocolate, so we’ve had to find some middle ground. For me, this has been to not buy anything Hershey’s. While lots of chocolate and candy makers are aware there is a major issue with how cocoa beans are harvested (mainly young boys in slavery being beaten and working 80 hour weeks to get them) and are beginning to put measures into place to help prevent this, Hershey’s is not. In fact, they have had a blatant disregard on the issue and are preying on Americans naiveté to not effect their sales. So far it’s worked for them. Our dollar is our vote, and this is why we are not ok purchasing any of their brands (which much to my husbands dismay includes peanut butter cups). Our family was Hershey free for Easter, and we will be Hershey free for Halloween (and in between). Ghirardelli has better cocoa and chocolate bars, so that wasn’t a difficult switch. We are making progress, but I hope more fair trade chocolate becomes available in our area.
Failing in: electronics. We have a fair amount of electronics in our home. While we aren’t the ones waiting in line for the iPhone, we also usually end up purchasing one of the newer versions that year. Our kids have their own devices (really mainly for reading, I promise!), and we each have our own laptop/tablet and a desktop. We have not done any research about the type of labor for each brand. We don’t recycle electronics, and I’ve heard Goodwill isn’t a great option for old electronics. This is definitely an area we can improve on next year.
It’s been a year of transition in how we make purchases, but I’m happy with the strides we’ve made. Shopping for all the things isn’t easy, and is definitely overwhelming at times. However, where you shop and what you buy also makes a difference in lives across the globe. For better or for worse. A little research and different choices can go a long way! Do the Hard Thing and Shop Responsibly. Try to buy products that help other people instead of hurt other people!
Did you know that October is Fair Trade month? Here are some organizations where you can use your purchasing power for good!
Sseko– shoes, bags and scarves
Toms- you’ve got to live under a rock if you aren’t familiar with their shoes…but they do more than shoes!
Better Life Bags– beautiful bags, and customized! The next bag I get will probably be through them!
The Root Collective– shoes, bags and jewelry. The next pair of flats I get will be through them. I like my Toms flats , but they wore out pretty quick
The Shine Project– jewelry
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This post is part of the #write31days challenge hosted by The Nester.
Click here to read all the posts in the 31 days of Doing the Hard Thing series.
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