We’re excited to share a guest blog from Liz Rees, Hub Cymru Africa this week, who shares great advice for buying Christmas gifts with thought.
For me, the joy of Christmas has always been more in the giving than in the receiving. OK, maybe not always – I’m pretty sure that 5-year-old me didn’t give two hoots about anything other than ensuring my own pile of presents was as big if not bigger than my sister’s. But for as long as I can remember, the hours of trudging round shops searching for perfect gifts, slowly bankrupting myself in the process, instantly seem worth it when I see the look on someone’s face when they unwrap something that they love. And if that gift was a bargain, then even better.
But following the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh in 2013, in which over 1000 workers who were making clothes for many UK high street brands were killed, a thought started niggling at me; what if that bargain that gave me and its recipient so much pleasure was at someone else’s expense? What if my perfect gift, bought with the aim of bringing happiness to one of my loved ones, was actually depriving someone else of not merely happiness but also their basic human needs?
I started looking into who made the clothes that I was wearing, who grew the cocoa in my chocolate, and who profited the most from my purchasing decisions. And that’s when my passion for Fair Trade began.
If you buy Fair Trade you can be certain that the producers that have made or grown your item will be working in safe conditions, will have received a fair price for their work, and will be in a position to provide a sustainable life for their families. On the other hand, if you buy products made in Africa or Asia which are not Fair Trade, you can be pretty sure that someone has been exploited along the way. When you look at it like that, I’m pretty sure that Fair Trade is something that everyone would want to get on board with.
‘But Fair Trade goods are so expensive!’, I hear some people cry. ‘And I wouldn’t know where to buy them from!’… Well, I have to admit that after making the decision to bump ethics to the top of my list of purchasing considerations, the penny pinching and lazy sides of me were very happy to discover that Fairtrade and ethically sourced products a) don’t have to be expensive at all, and b) are available from many high street shops!
Ethical Consumer magazine has put together a helpful list of the best high street shops to frequent if you want to ensure a fair deal for producers, as well as a guide to the most ethical online retailers to give your pennies to this Christmas.
If like me you are based in Cardiff, you are also fortunate enough to have a wonderful Fair Trade shop on your doorstep in the shape of Fair Do’s in Canton, where you can buy beautiful (and delicious, in the case of their Divine chocolate selection…) ethically sourced products from all over the world, perfect for Christmas presents (and year-round snacking).
So if you love the warm fuzzy feeling that comes with giving presents to the people that you love, then please consider seeking out Fair Trade and ethical gifts this Christmas. The knowledge that by doing so you are improving the lives of those in need as well as making your nearest and dearest happy will double the feel-good factor – I guarantee it.