Photo by Hajime NAKANO
Last week we talked about where our stuff comes from and how our stuff has farther reaching effects then we may have previously understood. I also wanted to share with you some of the changes that our family has made in the stuff that we buy, and use, and consume.
Now, please remember that we are human, we don’t do this perfectly all the time, and we still have a long ways to go. But, I believe that we are on the right path and each small decision/change that we make in our buying habits can ultimately have a much larger impact.
Over the past year, or two, we have really made a conscious effort to buy more things used. I’ll admit, I used to be a snob about used stuff. I figured, why buy something used when I could get it new for just a few dollars more? Now that my paradigm has shifted, I love garage sale season and trying to find great buys at thrift and consignment stores.
We also shop on Criagslist, Ebay, and other online sites for used items. Buying things used means less extraction, production, distribution and disposal. It makes an impact all along the system.
Along with buying used items, we’ve also been blessed to receive great hand-me-downs from friends and family. This is even a little better than buying used because it’s free! And makes the same impact all along the system.
Conscious Gift Giving
Just this past year, we’ve started to think about giving socially responsible gifts. We don’t believe there is anything wrong with giving gifts, but we do think that it can definitely get excessive and unnecessary at times, especially around Christmas.
This year we gave our family members gift cards from Living Water for Christmas. And my mom just had her birthday last month and together my sisters and I got her a necklace from Starfish Project, which rescues women from exploitation and abuse. This is one area that I am excited to do more with; striving to give gifts that make an impact beyond just the person receiving the gift.
Buy Fair Trade Products
Items like coffee and chocolate are highly valuable in the marketplace and can lead to exploitation of the people who grow and produce these products. TransFair USA provides fair trade certification for meeting strict economic, social and environmental guidelines in the production and trade of agricultural products.
Jer and I watched the documentary Black Gold and were convinced that we needed to be buying fair trade coffee. We have really enjoyed Bolivia’s Best coffee and while they are not certified fair trade, they buy from a co-op of family farmers and 100% of their profits go to funding homes for orphans in Bolivia.
Also, I just learned that a lot of store brands, like Archer Farms at Target, Members Mark at Sam’s Club, and Sam’s Choice at Walmart offer certified fair trade coffee – that makes buying fair trade coffee even easier! Next on my list is to buy fair trade chocolate. Fair Trade certified products also include tea and herbs, fresh fruit, flowers, sugar, rice and vanilla.
Educate Yourself about Forced and Child Labor
My sister recently shared with me about the organization Not for Sale, which is dedicated to fighting the global slave trade and ending human trafficking. Every day 27 million people, including children, are forced to work against their will, and could be making products so that we can get them for such a great “deal”.
Where our stuff comes from, and how it is made, affects the people that are involved in those parts of the process. I believe it is important to think about the people that are “behind” our products and try as best as we can to purchase products that are produced ethically and responsibly. Not for Sale runs a website called Free2Work which helps consumers to identify companies that do not include forced or child labor in the production of their products.
Let’s try to support those companies that are making good choices and treating their employees ethically and fairly. Browse around these sites, they share a lot of really important information for us as consumers.
Become a Conscious Consumer
Basically this one encompasses all of the previous ideas. Let’s be committed to really thinking about the items we buy, and use, and consume. Let’s be very selective about the items that we choose to bring into our homes. Let’s not blindly walk around Target (I’m so guilty of this!), or some other store and put stuff in our carts that we don’t really need because “Oh, it’s so cheap” or “It’s such a good deal”. Let’s remember that there is a hidden cost behind those items – a cost that other people and our environment pay for. I recently found the site Conscious Consuming and plan to spend some time learning about how to do a better job of this than I am doing right now.
Will you join me in making changes in how you buy and consume things in one or more of these areas? Have you already made changes in any of these areas? What has been your experience?