Nov 15, 2010
by Melissa Sanborn

Are the Christmas gifts on your list made by slaves?

Ring, ring, ring….”Hello?” Hi Honey, it’s Mom. What do you all want for Christmas?”

If you’re anything like me, you’ve both answered and asked this question quite a bit already as we fast-approach Christmas day. We give gifts to remember (in a tangible way) the ultimate gift given to mankind over 2,000 years ago by God in the form of His Son Jesus Christ. But let’s be honest for a moment, sometimes it’s hard to keep that in mind while you stress about what to get Aunt Marge or buying the perfect something for your mate. And then you read my blog title and suddenly you have another thing to stress about, right? Well, maybe, but sometimes a little anxiety can produce something amazing if channeled correctly. Before you start too far down the road of purchasing for your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers consider the source before moving forward with purchasing the product.

The Department of Labor released a report in September of 2009 highlighting several countries and a list of goods having strong ties to being produced by slave labor. In China, some of the top products were Christmas decorations, garments and footwear.

It’s almost impossible to be sure that everything you buy comes from a reputable source but there are definitely ways to support and reward the businesses that have chosen the higher road of ethical production and purchasing. I’d like to give you some suggestions:

Fair Trade: Buying fair trade is a powerful way to support producers in the U.S. and overseas in their effort to guarantee that their products are not only made without the use of slave labor but also that a fair wage is paid to their workers. You will also find a product search option so you can find what brand names at a particular store are fair trade. For the U.S. www.transfairusa.org and international www.fairtrade.net

Shop to Stop Slavery is a nonprofit organization that has produced a Gift Guide for this season. You’ll find 50 pages worth of businesses and ministries that sell great gift items, oftentimes produced by the survivors themselves. www.shoptostopslavery.com/gift-guide

Delicate Fortress is another organization committed to selling products created by survivors of trafficking as well as other forms of injustice. Before buying for the women and girls in your life take a look here. www.delicatefortress.com

For those of you in Phoenix, check out Gifts With A Conscience located at 3301 East Indian School Road www.giftswc.com. Note: they only have store hours on Thurs. Friday and Saturday. However, you can see their merchandise online ahead of time.

Purchase locally from small businesses as much as possible. While there’s no guarantee, the chances are greater that you’re buying a good product from a reputable supplier.

Encourage the businesses you purchase from to buy fair trade products whenever possible. Businesses want to supply what their customers will purchase. If enough people request it, then they’re sure to bring it in.

I know from personal experience that the pursuit of informed purchasing is not easy. Last year I wanted to send someone a fruit and chocolate basket and it took quite awhile to find a Fair Trade version, but with some perseverance and a willingness to spend a bit more, I tracked one down.

As the saying goes, it is far better to give than to receive. The feeling of satisfaction you experience when you find the perfect gift for someone you care about will increase all the more when you also care about the one making it.

(The list provided here is not exhaustive. We would like our readers to comment with their own findings for ethical gift purchasing, so please share the wealth!)

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