Friday, November 23, 2012

Alternative Black Friday

Black Friday Shopping. Its an alarming trend in our culture. The day (or sometimes just hours) after giving thanks for all we're blessed with, people run out to argue, trample, and hunt for the best "bargain" to give to their families. And really, very few deals scored on this day are actually worth the aggravation  It's just all so disturbing to me. We sacrifice time with our families on the holiday to go buy them things they don't actually need, spending extra money just so we can get the "free" bag with purchase. It's just really getting on my nerves lately.

And, since I'm sure people will disagree with me on this stand, lets move on to a different issue in our product-centered culture. Do you know where your gifts are coming from, or who's making them? Many things produced today involve slave labor. Today. Not hundreds of years ago, but right now in the 21st century, people are forced to make things with little to no pay. Among the worst offenders are chocolate, cotton products, and electronics. 

But what can you do?

Not For Sale has developed a free website and app called Free2Work that will tell you how safe your products are.
If you have a smartphone, pull it out right now and download the app. I'll wait.....

You can use the app two ways: search for a product, or scan the barcode. The app will give the product a grade (like school) based on how their products are made and what efforts the company is taking to prevent or eliminate poor labor practices. 

Why is this important? Because if we keep buying products that are harming others, especially without their consent, companies will continue to make products with slave labor (which is cheaper for them). Case in point: Hershey's. Hershey's is one of the worst offenders in the chocolate industry for using slave labor but despite proof and thousands of letters, they refuse to fix their supply chain. It would cost them to make the switch, and they haven't felt much pressure to change. People still buy their products. However, in Europe, consumers became aware of the same situation with Cadbury. They immediately were outraged that people were suffering for their treats, and stopped buying Cadbury. Within a year, Cadbury became fair-trade. (Simplified version of the story).

The only thing that will end slavery and human trafficking is for ordinary people to rise up and say "we won't stand for this", even if it means changing the way you shop. It's not that hard to do! Make it a habit to check the website/app before you shop and make the wisest decisions. If one of your favorite companies is not being responsible with their production  tell them you're upset! I've done it a few times and have even gotten replies with what they're doing to improve! Because of actions like this, Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream has committed to going fully fair trade by the end of next year, and has already made the switch on several flavors! 

So this Christmas season, make it a happy time for you, your loved ones, and the people making your gifts! Shop fair-trade or the equivalent!

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