9.25.2014

The Very Worst Buyers Guide to Ethical Shopping.

When you talk about making a conscious effort to buy fair trade products from ethically responsible sources, you'll find there are A LOT of people who share that burden and sincerely want to change there consumer habits, but who don't know where to start.

 So today, instead of a nifty little raffle only one person can win, I want to give everyone a comprehensive shopping guide to aid in the search for positive ways to impact the world with purchase power. 

Shopping season nearly is upon us. *shudder*

Christmas is just around the corner, and I bet a few of you have already begun to accumulate the mountain of carefully selected gifts you'll give this year. The normal people rest of us are just gearing up, collecting ideas, making lists, stalking Amazon for the cheapest perfect expression of our obligation to give everyone we're forced to interact with a present for Jesus' birthday love for our family and friends on Christmas. There really could be no better time to share a buyers guide for all you conscientious consumers than right now! 

But there is one teeeeeny tiiiiiny problem.

9.24.2014

Ethical buying? Don't worry, I can talk you out of it! (and a $50 Beautiful & Beloved giveaway)

I'd like to be a responsible consumer.

I really want to leverage every dollar that passes through my possession for the good of others. ...In theory. In practice, I want what I want and I want it cheap and I want it now.

Maybe that's why it's so easy for me to talk myself out of choosing costlier, time consuming, ethical purchases over grab-n-go products at rock-bottom prices. Admittedly, I can be impulsive, self-oriented, and expectant of immediate gratification, so, for me, putting in the extra effort to buy responsibly with others in mind is kind of a lot to ask. It's practically impossible.

To pacify any unrest I might experience when thoughts of ethical buying mess with my shopping mojo, I've mastered some pretty compelling arguments against shopping with a conscience. Since these well reasoned excuses have served me so well, I thought I'd share, as you may find my process beneficial next time you're perusing the aisles of your favorite store. You're welcome.

The first thing I do is tell myself that when I buy products made in foreign countries, regardless of the factory conditions, I'm supporting their economy. I'm giving all those poor people a job they wouldn't otherwise have. That $22 shirt is probably keeping like 75 women from having to work the fields around the dusty villages where their families and children are, ...I mean, everyone knows it's better to be exploited as slave-labor working in a harsh, dangerous, oppressive environment than it is to be a farmer feeding your own family. It's hot out there in the sun!

Really, what else matters?!
Then, if I find something I really want, I convince myself I can't afford to buy ethical products because things made by small businesses who pay regionally fair wages to their employees are more expensive than the same exact things churned out by a bunch of 9 year olds who practically work for free, and probably love it. (Do you know what I would have given to skip school and make wallets for rich people all day when I was 9? I would have traded a pinky finger! And I've heard some of these kids do.) Anyway. To prove that I absolutely cannot afford to buy the fair trade version of the shirt I'm holding, I carefully balance my Starbucks cup across the closest rack of hangers, then I pull out my phone and use my data plan to compare prices. I don't actually recommend doing it like this, because once my coffee fell and when it hit the ground it splooshed all over the jeans I was gonna get – super embarrassing! - plus, I had to go buy another latte... But, the point is, these mid-shopping internet searches always prove me right; The fair trade version of a $22 shirt is, like, $29. Who can afford that kind of mark up? Obviously not me...

9.23.2014

Consumed by Thoughts of Consumerism. (and a rePURPOSE giveaway!)

Something is happening to me.

I want to say it's bad, because it feels bad a lot of the time... but I think it's actually good. Maybe even very good.

I don't know. All I know is that I used to be able to go into a store, pick out what I needed wanted, pay for it, take it home, and enjoy it without a single irritating thought about where it was made, or why it was so cheap, or who made it. Clothes and shoes and jewelry and electronics and furniture and household goodies just seemed to appear, as if by some sort of hip, trendy, mind-reading magic, in the stores I frequent. All I had to do was have an idea about what I'd like to wear to a wedding and when I showed up at H&M it would be there waiting for me. If I thought about the perfect thing to hang above the toilet in the downstairs bathroom, I could run over to Target and, not only would I find it, it would practically jump into my cart and wheel itself to the checkout.

I look just like this when I shop! No, I don't.
I didn't even have to try - I could always find just what I was looking for. Sure, sometimes I wouldn't get it because I couldn't afford it, but until recently, I'd never walked away from the perfect find because I wasn't sure about the conditions of the factory it was made in, or the workers ages or wages.

I mean, I'm not a damn hippie. 

But, like I said, something's happening to me.

I think it started on the busy streets of Cambodia, when I saw a parade of trucks carrying thousands of factory workers out of the city after a long day's work. They were standing shoulder to shoulder, packed like lil' smokies onto long, diesel driven flatbeds with wood slatted sides, bandanas tied across their noses in a vain attempt to keep the billowing smog and relentless dust out of their slight bodies. It reminded me of passing a cattle truck on a California freeway, and as one truckload of people after another went by, the labels in my cheap clothes started to make me itch. I wondered if any of them recognized their handy work in the Old Navy tank top I'd thrown on that morning, or if they could see their solid stitches in my trusty Target sandals. Seeing all this, I started to feel embarrassed by my own blissful ignorance, so I did the only appropriate thing.... I slid down as far as I could in the back of the taxi and avoided all eye contact.

That was like the first time I'd come face to face with where clothes come from. 

9.18.2014

Not Everyone Likes You (a word for bloggers & a guest post giveaway)

People always ask me for blogging advice and I have no idea why.

I know the little piece of internet I own and author is doing alright, but I'm not exactly an expert when it comes to blog stuff, or tech stuff, or writing stuff. I just sort of do whatever I want and sometimes it works out. But blogging has been good to me. It's been a creative outlet, a quiet therapist, a boisterous community, a spirited debate, a sincere friend, and a soft, snarky place to land, again and again as I've stumbled along this path of Life and Faith. So whenever someone tells me they're starting a blog it makes me kind of happy to think they may be embarking on a similar journey.

I really do wish I had some bit of great blogging advice to offer, but since my beginning in the blog world, the rules of successful blogging (if such a thing ever existed) have changed a lot, and they continue to morph at a pretty rapid rate.

Back in the day, blogs were the place where conversations happened as people commented directly to the author or to each other, responding, edifying, arguing, encouraging, and offending in long threads of dialog at the bottom of each post. These days, the majority of the conversation takes place elsewhere, mostly on Facebook, where we engage in an oddly disconnected, but highly interested, modern-day version of community. So while five years ago the intent of a blog was to draw people in, these days it's to be drawn out – to be shared. We used to want to know how to get people to come to our blog, but now we're asking how to get our blog "out there” to the people. Comment threads are no longer a good indicator of how well a particular blog post has been received, because, today, in the land of SEO and XML and LOLZ, the Share button is king.

Success for today's blogger means being posted, pinned, tumbled, stumbled, mailed, and tweeted times infinity.

Just whispering the word "viral" gives bloggers a boner. It used to be if someone told you they'd gone viral, you'd take a generous step backward, visibly shudder, and run away to wash your hands. Now we're all clamoring for the chance. We want to spread our infectious discourse all over the internet, the faster the better. When we post to our blogs, it's no longer in the hope that people will come join us in our little space, but that they'll invite us into theirs. We want readers to carry the thing we've created home with them, to their Facebook house, to share it with their friends, who will share it with their friends, who will share it with their friends. And on and on, just like the flu, until everyone's had it, some twice.