Fair trade, engaged consumer holiday shopping, and 31 days without Walmart

I don't normally shop specifically for "fair trade" items. But a 4 oz. bottle of all natural vanilla for $5.99 was too good a deal to pass up. That it's also fair trade and organic? The perfect purchase.

For the record, I do not consider myself a tree-hugging liberal, which is what I think some of my friends are beginning to think I’ve morphed into. No, I’m a Jesus-following, love-my-neighbor American with a Libertarian-leaning political bent.

So it shouldn’t surprise you that I pay attention to what I eat and where it was farmed, as well as where the products I buy are made.  Being an engaged or educated consumer doesn’t start with reading labels. It starts with loving people.

And I’m not a bandwagon issue kind of gal. I think that oftentimes what starts out as a good idea becomes a marketing ploy to make consumers feel good. If you buy yogurt with a pink label you think you’ve somehow done our part to help breast cancer research, when all you did was increase the sales for that dairy company and made yourself feel a little better without doing anything other than what you’d normally do.

But I digress. For today. Because tomorrow, I kick off my “31 days without Walmart” adventure. No big box, discount, dollar store shopping for the entire month of December.

Understand this isn’t about Walmart specifically. That’s just my go-to discout store when I need something quick and cheap. The goal is to avoid all of those super cheap StuffMart stores, focusing my dollars and time instead on local businesses and products made in the U.S.A.

This isn’t something new for me, necessarily. Whenever possible I avoid the “Made in China” label if I can find a product made locally instead. It’s not easy. And I’m not opposed to foreign products. But when it comes to shirts made in Vietnam or shoes from Indonesia, I just don’t know what companies are treating their employees well or working them like slaves. Literally.

This is all Kelsey’s fault. Kelsey Timmerman is the author of the book, “Where Am I Wearing?” We met several years ago at a writers’ conference. He went on to write the book; I got another dog so I had an excuse to not write.

Before I met Kelsey, I never cared about where my clothes were made or  how those workers were treated. Then Kelsey and I became pals and I read his book (if you  haven’t read it, maybe Santa can stuff it in your stocking) and those clothing labels began to have faces. I began to think, “I know this shirt cost $5.  But I wonder who made it? How many hours a day do they work?” I confess I go for the bargains sometimes, but more and more I find myself putting the product back on the shelf. I don’t need half the stuff I buy anyway.

Being an engaged consumer is important to me, not because I’ve switched political parties, but because Jesus would want it that way.

If we really love our neighbors, we’ll care about their working conditions. We’ll want to support our local communities. We’ll care that people have healthy families and medical care and safe working conditions, whether they’re around the corner or around the world.

For you Christians, let’s call it “missions”.

So for the next 31 days, no Walmart, no Big Lots, no Dollar Store, no Target. Not because those stores are bad – you can find good quality products made in the U.S.A at reasonable prices. And those stores support local economies by providing jobs to our neighbors. But in order to make a point, I’m going cold turkey on the StuffMart.

It’s Christmas. This isn’t going to be easy.

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8 responses to “Fair trade, engaged consumer holiday shopping, and 31 days without Walmart

  1. You are a brave, brave girl! We also have become more aware of the “made in china” label, especially hard on the heels of the health warnings (from jewelry, cast iron, etc.) that kept coming up in consumer reports.

    I hope it goes well!

    • I’ve learned a lot over the last few years about the food I eat especially. But I’ve also begun to enjoy the whole idea of getting to know the shopkeepers, etc. I hope I can function for a whole month without Walmart! LOL

  2. Good luck with your one month experiment! I’m of a more radical, hippie bent, but my parents aren’t, and they are fair-trade fans, too. As devout Christians, they are really into justice and compassion. You don’t have to be a tofu-lover like me to avoid the big box stores. This issue is bigger than our perceived “types.”

    • One thing I’ve learned in recent years is that vegetarians/vegans and omnivores who care about where their food comes from have a lot more in common than they think. That’s why I think my friends think I’ve jumped ship politically when I tell them I shop at the natural food store and eat organic or sustainably farmed food whenever possible. It’s not about politics or labels or stereotypes – it’s about making wise choices for our bodies and our lives and for the people around us.

      I’ve never had tofu. What does it taste like, LOL?

      • Haha, tofu tastes like nothing! That’s the beauty of it; it soaks up everything like a delicious, squishy flavor sponge. It can be savory, sweet, crunchy, cheese-like. It’s tricky business.

  3. Ah yes, another convert. I’m honored to accept the blame. And thanks for the book recommendation.

    I like your beyond-politics statement here. Giving a darn about the world around us isn’t political it’s human.

    • LOL, well you’re not to blame for the food changes. But the stuff – yeah, you definitely influenced me. In fact, I told another person about your book today. If I can’t finish a book myself, I’ll just promote yours!!

  4. Pingback: What Would Santa Do? | The Art of Conscientiousness

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