Like most people, I love a good deal. I have gotten up at the crack of dawn and fought people for a clearance price. I remember running through the mall with my mom as a teenager, feeling a literal adrenaline rush as I pushed past people for a deal of the year.
As I started learning about slave labor around the world that is often used to produce cheap goods, I could not avoid the Black Friday part of my own life. Julie Clawson says it perfectly in her book Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices:
It can be easy to sign a petition, wear a bracelet, put a banner on our blog or a bumper sticker on our car, or simply give money to help with a cause, but to really start effecting change we have to actually start tweaking the way we live.
How do we effect change if we are unwilling to change some of our habits? I think the first way we truly make change is to let this information hit us. Read the below statistics and think about the faces of these people.
1.2 million children are enslaved through forced labor and exploited in the sexual industry each year.
In 1850, the cost of a slave if converted in today’s dollar value, would be $40,000. The cost of a modern day slave is $90.
78% of modern day slaves are in the Labor Industry, while 22% are in the Sex Industry.
55% of modern day slaves are women and children and 45% are men and boys. 26% of them are children under 18 years old.
These are the people who make our clothing that we trample one another to get on Black Friday, the ones who make our gadgets and tech toys we stand in line and camp out for hours to buy, the people who pick our chocolate that we eat on Christmas Day out of our stockings. It's overwhelming, but it's also something we can learn more about and make real strides to change in our own lives.
Here are a few ways that I have changed my shopping habits, even when Black Friday is a family tradition:
Go, but don't spend a lot. There are a lot of cool places to eat and drink that are locally run and operated in malls or shopping centers. Go, walk around with your friends or family, and eat at a local eatery. Go into those little boutiques marked with a "Fair Trade" or "Direct Trade" sticker outside of their door. The prices might be a bit higher, but they also don't get their items from slave labor.
Cultivate other traditions. I love Small Business Saturday these days. I love going to small, locally run (and made) businesses near me to get to know products I never have stopped to learn about before. I find myself thinking through what I really need instead of loading up a cart full of things at a Black Friday event. The thoughtfulness of purchasing from smaller businesses helps me cultivate the kind of awareness I want to have during the holidays.
Shop Fair Trade, Direct Trade, Social Enterprises, Local and B-Corps. There is so much being done in the way of transparency in the way things are made. But, the truth? We still have a long way to go. If you are searching for how to purchase something great this holiday season, we suggest you take a look at things that mark themselves as one (or a few) of the listed above. We love these brands for helping during the holidays!
...and so many more! Once you start considering how you might want to support small and local businesses or businesses that "do good," there are endless options. What are you finding in your search for ethical Christmas and Holiday gifts this month?