Madonna summarized is perfectly: we live in a material world. I recently wrote posts about my feelings on owning “stuff” and in this post I want to take a different spin on “stuff.”
I highlight that these are just my thoughts and perspectives–please take and leave what you like from them! With so many goods/ items for purchase (and services, however, I am not going to be discussing services directly–although the 2 often overlap greatly) how do you decide what to buy and from where? Whether it’s food, home decor for yourself, wedding presidents, birthday presents, or any other hundreds of categories and reasons to purchase items how do you decide what to get and from where/from whom?
Over the past several years I have given this questions extensive thought and here are some of the conclusions I have come to as of now–and it has not been easy (I am sure they may change and grow, as I change and grow). I invite you to begin your own exploratory journey on this topic! I have decided that due to my income I will purchase my food, toilet paper (yes, we all need that, or at least it’s a necessity for me), dish and hand soap, brooms, etc at larger stores because the prices tend to be lower. I have chosen not to shop at Walmart for several reasons, however I recognize that every large corporate store has it’s own pitfalls. It does make me very sad to think that I might be eating an apple picked and packaged by an exploited worker, or wearing a T-shirt made in sweat-shop like conditions and I hope to increase my conscientious consumerism on those items in the near future.
However, when it comes to items I am purchasing “just for fun” for myself (c’mon, most of us do this!) for gifts, or for certain home items (a sponge holder, a journal, a pillow) I try my hardest to support Fair Trade products and/or local business/artists. Here are some great options for that:
1) ETSY! Etsy works hard to weed out sellers/shops that are selling mass-produced items so that you will find only handmade, vintage, and supplies on Etsy shops. Sometimes the smallest purchase can make a big difference in the life of the artist/shop owner.
2) SERRV: http://www.serrv.org is a website and catalog dedicated to selling handmade, fair-trade items. They have a rich and inspiring history you can check-out on the website.
3) Ten Thousand Villages: http://www.tenthousandvillages.com is also a fair-trade retailer which has a website and stores you can visit in person.
4) The GVN foundation shop: http://www.gvnfoundation.org/artshop/new/
GVN stands for Global Volnteer Network and they are the umbrella organization which brought me to volunteer in Rwanda–one of the greatest and most transformative experiences of my life. They send volunteers all over the world and at the shop you can currently purchase several pieces of lovely jewelry and Peruvian Pens–with more items being added.
5) Talk to your friends and community! I am certain you know someone who is selling items on behalf of a cause, family, or organization! For example, currently at my ETSY shop (eclecticnesting.etsy.com) you can find items to purchase in which 100% of the money will be donated to a specific cause, charity, or organization. Specifically, you can find paper-beads (please note many more paperbeads will be added by the end of February) made by women in a small co-op in western Rwanda. I had the honor of meeting these wonderful artisans at their co-op space in Rwanda. For example I currently have someone in my life who is trying to earn money to keep her home by selling brightly colored paperclips and also other items from her shop—you can find her story here:
6) Shop at your local thrift store–reusing/recycling items is great for you and the environment and some thrift stores have a beneficiary charity/organization.
I also recently posted about the difficulty of artists flooding the global market, selling their amazing wears to generate income. There are many choices out there and I invite you to explore a few of them! A purchase of $10 pair of earrings can make a HUGE difference in the life of the impoverished artist who made them.
Lastly, I encourage (slash implore) everyone to read the book “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide” by Kristof and WuDunn (http://www.halftheskymovement.org/) which speaks to many issues, including the issue of poverty around the world and its drastic impact on girls and women. (And yes, I believe that buying that $10 pair of earrings made by an impoverished women trying to stay out of prostitution or go to school, or supporting a struggling family to maintain their home is making a difference!)
I also try to use recycled gift-wrap and packaging (just another seed I am planting/ something to think about)……