Every time I enter a department store, I think of the recent sweatshop tragedy in Dhakah, Bangladesh. On November 24, 2012, over a hundred women and girls, forced to slave for hours in a sweatshop locked from the outside, perished when a fire broke out and they could not escape. But the Tazreem Fashions’ sweatshop owners are not the only ones responsible for their deaths. When we shop at Wal-Mart and buy dirt-cheap goods, some of that blood and ash gets on our hands, too, for we are driving the demand for sweatshop labor with our consumption.
So this holiday season, when everyone is expected to show their love through their purchases, what can we do? Here are a few solutions I’ve come up with:
- Donate to organizations that the receiver supports and appreciates.
- Shop at great consignment clothing stores like Crossroads or Buffalo Exchange.
- Wrap fair-trade beverage items (tea, coffee, sipping chocolate) with one of your favorite poems or quotes. That way, the person can savor the words while enjoying the beverage you gifted them!
- Share an afternoon with a friend, treating him or her to dinner and a movie or better yet, a hike or a lakeside stroll.
- Attend artisan fairs and craft shows, purchasing local artists’ toys, pottery, artwork, jewelry, kitchen wares, and other hand-crafted items.
- Check to ensure that your factory-made purchases are made by unionized workers whose rights are protected. If you are creative with some of your gifts, you might be better able to afford the higher price tag of a garment produced by someone whose life and rights are respected.
I know that bucking the consumerist mindset during the holidays can be very challenging. I have to admit that I’ve already bought three big-box store items this year—their rock-bottom prices were just too hard to resist! But I have also purchased local, hand-crafted jewelry, written a few poems, shopped at second-hand stores, and even purchased a clothing item from what I used to call “those super-expensive, made-in-USA” stores. Yep, that’s right—me, a single mom and tight-wad daughter of depression-era parents. And if I can do it (well, almost do it), then we all can.
It’s time to take back our holidays from the corporations who benefit from so much spending and consumption. We can celebrate our holidays in ways that recognize that we are not separate from those who slave and perish in overseas factories. We can endeavor to show our love in actions and with gifts that nature holds out to us rather than depleting her abundance or demeaning other human beings.
So this holiday, let’s make the better choice. Even if we slip up and buy a sweatshop item, there’s always the next gift idea or activity that we can improve on, so that we can continue to celebrate the holidays in an increasingly interconnected and resplendent world!