Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What Would Jesus Buy?

We fear that many of the items we purchase at department stores are made in sweat shops, and I have yet to meet a sales clerk who can definitively tell me which products are made under humane circumstances and which are not. As one XBOX 360 seeking adolescent in "What Would Jesus Buy?" said, its "mind boggling" to try to figure out where these products come from . . . he went on to say he didn't really care, but given a chance to fully understand the issue--I mean, if he met a kid his age working under harsh conditions for just pennies an hour to make him a shirt--he would most likely feel bad and want that person to have a better working situation.

That same 'mind boggling' question has allowed me to float in a sense of consumer helplessness, buying what I need when I need it despite the potential economic contribution to child labor, because the rat's nest of globalization goods and bads is just too hard to sort out. Or is it? After watching "What Would Jesus Buy?", I had a major break through. I know in my conscience what is right to do, and yet I've been letting confusion and a sense of helplessness lead to contradictory actions. This activist documentary humorously ended the debate for me. I no longer want to purchase ANYTHING that leads to children suffering or adult suffering for that matter.

So how do I make the transition? There are more factors than buying habits at stake. I associate fair trade wears with funky designs not plausible for the office unless you are going for a 'cultural' look that contradicts your basic style sense. After the movie, I went online to COOP America and searched for a basic white dress shirt that is sustainably made and fair trade.I found one for $49, with a picture of the cooperative my purchase supports. Yeah, I can get a button down white shirt at Macy's for half the price, but what am I supporting? If plan ahead I can budget for my purchases, buy less, pay more, and put my money, limited though it may be, where my mouth is! Whew hew!!! That sounds like a New Year's Resolution in the making!

Fair Trade involves the following principles:
Producers receive a fair price - a living wage
Forced labor and exploitative child labor are not allowed
Buyers and producers trade under direct long-term relationships
Producers have access to financial and technical assistance
Sustainable production techniques are encouraged
Working conditions are healthy and safe
Equal employment opportunities are provided for all
All aspects of trade and production are open to public accountability

Let's share links with one another for cool clothes that follow these principles--of course the closer to home the better!

1 comment:

Trekking Left said...

I think people want to do the right thing, but (as you stated) it's too confusing. In my opinion, many people would be willing to pay more for clothes if it was convenient to determine what was fair trade and what wasn't.