While shopping mindfully may not seem like a big deal, when you understand the big picture you will see it is critical that we pay attention to the practices we support. In our world today money is power, and the way we choose to execute our power is important. If more and more people refrain from buying slave-made and environmentally-harmful products, companies will listen. Vote with your dollars by supporting ethical and Fair Trade producers and trying not to support companies that abuse human rights and the environment. Our SHOP page lists great companies to support, and our CONNECT page lists some of our favorite ethical shopping guides and blogs that will further inform your choices.
It is not always possible to purchase the perfect cruelty-free, environmentally-sustainable product. The items you need may be difficult to find, or a particular ethical product may be out of your range financially. We all have different needs and different budgets. The goal is to vote for a better world whenever we can by making informed choices.
If you own a business, you can scour your supply chain to ensure that your company is as cruelty-free and environmentally-responsible as possible. Know the Chain is a site that can assist you in that process. Also, Free the Slaves offers an 8-minute video on Becoming A Slavery-Free Business.
Investing mindfully sounds like an overwhelming subject, and it is. Fortunately, there are a number of useful guides designed to help you invest for a better world. Dr. Ellis Jones, author of the Better World Shopping Guide, has a page for investors. He suggests we divest from those companies that have a have failing grade and choose to invest instead in companies that receive an A grade for social and environmental responsibility.
Green America also offers quite a bit of information on socially-responsible investing here.
Given the widespread nature of human rights and environmental abuses in manufacturing, it is surprising that more people do not know about it. That is where we conscious consumers come in. You can help educate people in your circles in any of the following ways:
Share the Shop Ethical and Fair shopping list. Post a Shop Ethical And Fair-Trade (SEAF) Challenge to your social media, asking your friends and family to buy as many ethical and Fair Trade holiday gifts as possible.
Use our Facebook page to post new ideas, information and inspiration. Let us know if you find a great gift, or if you decide to donate or volunteer using one of the ideas below.
Did you know that you can start a Fair Trade campaign that leads to your school, church or town being designated as a Fair Trade institution? This kind of campaign raises public awareness in a big way, and can be accomplished through a series of clear steps. For example, in a Fair Trade Congregation, the church uses Fair Trade products for all of its events and actively teaches church members about the benefits of Fair Trade. Go to the Fair Trade Campaigns website to find out more.
Free The Slaves offers teachers guides like this one to help them design age-appropriate school curricula on the importance of Fair Trade. This can be a powerful social studies unit from 6th grade on, and when delivered just before the holidays it has the potential to create a measurable increase in fair-trade gift buying in the community where the unit is taught. Informed children can be remarkably effective advocates, especially when they realize that children their age all over the world are affected. Any parent will know how good their teens and pre-teens can be at getting what they want, whether it’s a toy advertised on television or a new pair of fair-trade shoes!
Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you shop. In a small store, you may be able to ask the owner directly whether the product is ethically made. You can also ask for more products in the grocery store that are Fair Trade certified. Write to companies whose products you purchase to inquire about their ethical and environmental standards. Let us know on our Facebook page if you write and get a response, so we can keep sharing the good products and avoiding the bad ones.
For example, in his Ted Talk Congolese former slave Bandi Mbubi asks that we write to our cell phone companies demanding Fair Trade phones, and describes the dark side of a mineral used in most of our favorite devices. The mining industry in the Congo is slavery-based and is fueling the civil war.
Write to political leaders on your own, or create a mass letter or email campaign at your school or church. For example, ask your group to write or email their representatives asking them to support bills that fund America’s anti-slavery initiatives at home and abroad. Keep an eye on our website and Facebook page for letter writing and email campaigns you can support. Sign up for email notices at the bottom of the page.
The SEAF LEARN page lists several leading organizations that are worthy of your donations. They are already doing highly effective work, but need more funding to be able to free a larger percentage of the world’s slaves and address the root causes of modern-day slavery as well as human rights and environmental abuses.
Three of our favorites anti- slavery organizations are based in the San Francisco Bay Area:
Free The Slaves To quote their website: “Free the Slaves liberates slaves, helps them rebuild their lives, and transforms the social, economic and political conditions that allow slavery to persist.” This organization not only stretches your donation, they also offer ‘gifts that spread freedom’ for the holidays and beyond. Their year-round online store includes products like messenger bags sewn by survivors of sex trafficking in Kolkata, India. A great way to directly support a proven organization and shop FT at the same time.
Not For Sale Campaign. Started in 2007 by USF professor David Batstone, who authored a book by the same name, Not For Sale concentrates its efforts on addressing the root causes of slavery in communities worldwide. Batstone’s message to those who wonder what one individual can do about an issue as vast as human trafficking: “Do one thing. Take one step.”
Freedom House. From the website: “Freedom House is a non-profit organization with a mission to bring hope, restoration, and a new life to survivors of human-trafficking by providing a safe home and long-term aftercare. In August 2010, Freedom House launched The Monarch, the first safe house in Northern California for adult female survivors of human trafficking. The Nest, its residential shelter for minors, is located in Santa Clara County.
Located in the San Francisco Bay Area, Freedom House works closely with law enforcement and community partners to identify survivors of human trafficking, and to provide them with the care and services they need to rebuild their lives. Through our innovative aftercare model, Freedom House is breaking the cycle of exploitation and creating new futures for survivors.”
If you’re able to volunteer your time and talents, there are many ways to get involved. One is to host a fundraiser for an organization that speaks to you. Working on an issue you care about as part of a team is an amazing way to generate a sense of community. You can raise funds, enjoy an event with others, and raise awareness at the same time.
The following links provide some easy and enjoyable ideas for fundraising. Some are especially appropriate for the Fair Trade cause, such as a gently-used clothing sale with all your friends to support organizations working to end slavery in the garment industry, or a house party where you show one or more inspiring films highlighting the work of organizations for a better world. There are so many possibilities, and every dollar raised makes a difference!
Classy.org’s list of 25 quick fundraising ideas
GiveForward’s fundraising ideas page
Free The Slaves offers a step-by-step guide to creating a Fundraiser here. This 8-page downloadable pdf guide covers topics ranging from attracting attendees, to cutting costs ,to how to organize an effective timeline for producing your event. A unique feature provided by Free The Slaves is an easy way to create your own fundraising webpage for your event. Learn more here.