In a topic related to yesterday’s post, let’s talk cheap goods. We tend to think of these goods as being made in a sweatshop in China, don’t we? China or some country that’s just starting to develop. And, we’d probably be right. What we don’t think about is that our electronics and clothes and toys and other things are likely made there, too. This puts us in a bind. We all want cheap electronics and clothes and whatever, we just don’t want those sweatshops to exist. It hurts our consciences when we think about them (which generally isn’t often). No one wants child labor to be a reality, but it is.
Fair trade goods are generally twice as expensive as “regular” goods though. (Fair trade goods being those for which a fair price was paid to the maker) They can be hard to find unless you are willing to do all of your shopping online with small retailers or you live near a major metropolitan area with lots of funky little boutique shops. Even grocery shopping is rife with controversy. It was found recently that shrimp and other fish sold at major supermarkets and big box stores were tied to slave labor. Migrant laborers who are not paid the going rate for labor are responsible for harvesting a lot of produce in the U.S.
So, what’s the thrifty, socially-conscious person to do? Shop at farmer’s markets and second hand stores. They can’t take care of all your needs, but they can get at least some of it done. In my area farmer’s markets only run during the summer months though. And we all like our electronics (or we wouldn’t be blogging). I don’t know if there is a solution. We can petition companies to pay a fair wage and write letters. We can all commit to never buying electronics again (which isn’t reasonable really if we want to be able to live in today’s world and participate; my kids need to know how to use a computer for when they go out and get jobs). We’re, most of us, going to contribute our fair share of misery to this world through our choices both conscious and unknowingly.
I think it’s worth a reminder occasionally though that we are going to contribute less if we stick to second-hand clothes and farmer’s markets, fair trade goods when we can get them, and practice the old adage of “use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without”. There will always be someone out there willing to exploit cheap labor and developing countries, we can try our best to minimize our involvement. I am as guilty as anyone, but together we can help.