Monday, October 22, 2012

Let's Shop Responsibly

With the season of giving fast approaching, one way we can act to end all kinds of injustices and support the efforts of those working on behalf of the poor and oppressed world wide is to shop responsibly and make as many of our holiday purchases from stores that sell fair trade products or products produced and sold directly by organizations working with the artisans. Another aspect is to support organizations who use the sales of their products to change lives by providing good for orphans, clean water in Africa, or other vital needs.

Another thought, maybe more radical, is to give instead of get this Christmas. What if a family decided to half what they spent of gifts this Christmas and spend the weeks leading up to the birth of Christ giving to others like my my beautiful friend Ann does. I'll admit, I'm struggling with Christmas this year. I'm taking my missionary kids home for the first time in a year this Christmas (God willing, we just got some rough news from our supporter about this. Pray with me that we can accept God's will in grace?). I want it to be meaningful for them and yet mindful of others. They have some real needs that could be met with gifts. But I also want to them to think of giving as the way to real Christmas joy. Being a missionary isn't a free pass to that joy. Sometimes it's easy to justify indulging these darling missionaries because they give up so much already. I want to be more intentional than that in our time at home.

If you are feeling called to shop more responsibly this season, there are some great internet sites that have made that so much easier. I have done what I can to get a list going here. If you have others to suggest, please leave them in the comments below.

Gift Selections:
  • Shop to Stop Slavery's Ethical Shopping Guide: A great resources for finding conscientious companies and a variety of gift ideas for every budget. And all the research is done for you. 
  • Charity Gift Market: This might be my favorite resource in the list. Shop by product, name of charity or cause you want to support. And the gifts are beautiful.
  • Edited to add the Connected in Hope shop co-founded by Catholic homeschooling mom Ryane to provide meaningful work for former fuel wood carriers.
  • The Open Arms Shop: Providing meaningful work for women refugees in the Austin, TX area. And the skirts and scarves are so pretty!
  • The Amazima Store: Necklaces made by women in the Masese community ministered to by Katie Davis. I'm giving these to my favorite ladies this year! And I might sneak a red one into my own stocking!
  • Radiant Cosmetics: Lipstick and eye shadow that fight trafficking! A micro-enterprise cosmetics company.
  • 3 Cords: A social enterprise for Haitian women who lost limbs in that country's tragic earthquake. Really cute bags, head bands and accessories. 
  • Haitian Crosses: Beautiful products, including some lovely Nativity triptychs, from a Haitian artisans cooperative supported my various Catholic ministries within the Diocese of Miami. 
  • Give Jewelry Bracelets: What a lovely gift for the girls in our lives. Beautiful jewelry that provides a fair wage for the artisan and feeds an Indonesian orphan for a week. 
  • Ten Thousand Villages: unique, handmade fair trade items in a variety of categories. Someone in our  family wants a djembe drum for Christmas. I think I've found it.
  • The Hunger Site Store: Huge selection of items and your pruchase helps feed the hungry around the world.
  • Mudlove Bracelets: These bracelets with inspirational words look super cool and are a great gift for teens in your life. Each $5 band provides one person in Africa clean drinking water for a year.
  • Trade As One: I picked this one because there are a lot of lovely food choices for gift baskets, including coffee, tea and chocolate.
  • SERVV: This one is a pioneer in fair trade products and creating entrepeneurship in developing nations. I'm slightly obessed with this bag. And the aprons. And the table linens. Well, you get the idea. Good stuff there.
  • Shop Etsy: This is not a charity organization, but you can find all kinds of great gift ideas in Etsy and, for the most part, be assured you are supporting a home-based small business enterprise or at least avoiding the mass-produced consumer market. 
  • Shop the sponsors at your favorite blogs. Again, no guarantee that you are fighting slavery or poverty with your purchase, but they are likely to be family-run businesses who really appreciate support. I know Elizabeth's sponsor list is chock full of great Catholic and Christian businesses.
If you are not sure why it is important to look for socially conscience chocolate, take a look a this documentary to understand. Much of the chocolate sold by large producers is made by child slaves on the Ivory Coast of Africa. I wish I could say I had always understood and felt moved by this unconscionable fact, but I haven't. However, I now think it is one of the most important consumer decisions we can make.

  • This page offers a great comprehensive list of brands, facts, and links of where to purchase chocolate in good conscience. 
  • And this Costa Rican company is a great option for quality organic chocolate produced in a sustainable fair trade fashion. And it's priced quite reasonably. And, as you know, I'm partial to businesses that provide meaningful fair trade work in the indigenous regions of Costa Rica.
If you are looking for some alternatives to consumerism and would like to allocate part of your holiday budget to giving rather than receiving, here are some ideas that I am passionate about. Of course, there are countless others and I would encourage you to follow where your heart leads. The Spirit gives the gift of zeal. We all experience it differently. Use what He gives.

Alternatives to gift giving:
This is not an exhaustive list and just researching and thinking it through this much has taken me days on end. It takes time and energy to think and shop this way, and sometimes, as I can attest, you just need to run to Target (or PriceSmart) and get the job done. I beg for grace to be an intentional consumer if the times when I must simply purchase or consume for the sake of our collective family sanity.
But I am totally inspired by these links I have shared and I do hope that at least one of these links will inspire you and allow you to make a purchase or a donation that will serve your needs in a way that is good for your moral spirit. Please share your favorite links for conscientious shopping in the comments.


  1. Yay! Thanks for including us in your #ShopResponsibly list. We really appreciate your support of and know together we can make a difference :)

    ~Andy Markelz

    1. Andy, Thank you for the work you have done at Charity Market. It is a lovely site with a purpose about which I am quite passionate and it makes it so easy for people to be responsible and inspired shoppers. I hope there are many Christmas gifts out there this year that tell a story. Thank you for your work.