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January 9, 2009

Blog Feature: Socially Conscious Shopping

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For this Extra Ink, I'm featuring an excerpt from Global Issues blogger Catherine N.'s latest post. In it, she offers a lot of great advice on how to shop wisely in the face of current socioeconomic situations around the world. I've selected a few to showcase here, but make sure to check out Catherine's blog to learn more!

From the Global Issues Blog

Let's flashback to eighteenth-century England. British abolitionists boycotted slave-produced sugar, causing sales to drop by 33-50% and thus sending a clear message that they wouldn't tolerate the slave trade. They didn't even have to give up sugar-just the sugar produced by the slave industry! Because of their efforts and those of lawmakers, Britain abolished the slave trade.

You can take the same type of action today. When you make a commitment to buy fair trade products instead of goods made by slaves and underpaid laborers, you send a message to the world that you refuse to fuel these practices.

Here are some of the 2009 equivalents of boycotting sugar, or ways you can change your habits to take a stand as a modern-day abolitionist. Make these your New Year's Resolutions. And if you're daring, get innovative, and do more. Adopt these habits into your lifestyle and then spread them through your school.

Stop before you shop. If you're heading out to buy coffee, tea, cocoa, sugar, fruit, rice, or flowers, check TransFair USA's database of stores that sell Fair Trade Certified Products. There's also a list of national retailers that sell Fair Trade Certified Products, like Costco and Whole Foods, and a list of fair trade products you can order at popular stores like Ben & Jerry's ice cream and Starbucks. Look for the label. When you visit the stores listed at the above web sites, don't assume all the products are fair trade. Unless if it's a fair trade store (like Ten Thousand Villages), you have to find the Fair Trade Certified label in order to make sure the products you're buying are fair. This label ensures that the workers who made your product were paid fairly and worked in a safe environment. Read more at the TransFair USA web site.

Don't buy blood diamonds. Shop for ethical jewelry from sellers like CRED or Ten Thousand Villages instead of blood diamonds that perpetuate African conflicts.

Think first, spend second. Part of being a socially conscious consumer is only spending on what you really need-which isn't easy. Try to think of some ways you can cut back in 2009, stick to your goals, and then donate the excess.

-Catherine N.

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