I hate surprises, so I like to largely shop for my own gifts. In my constant struggle to be conscious of how my purchases affect the world (thanks to Professor Tammy Werner, I can no longer shop guilt-free), I decided to begin looking for fair trade options for my own Christmas presents. (I particularly want an ethically made, sub-$100 shoulder bag, if anyone has any leads….) This has proven more difficult than originally expected. The affordable options are often ugly and the acceptable pieces outrageously priced (for a student’s budget, at least). With the hope of helping other weary shoppers to find presents for themselves, their loved ones, or me, I have put together a short list of items all below $20 (before shipping + handling).
The following items are from members of fair trade organizations like the Fair Trade Federation [http://www.fairtradefederation.org], which means they’ve made a commitment to selling items produced by workers paid fair wages and under safe working conditions. In developing nations where workers are so often exploited, these wages can help break the cycle of poverty and make lives better for individuals, families, and entire communities. This does not make the items vegan, organic, eco-friendly, or any other ethical consideration, but it’s a definite step in the right direction away from sweatshop labor.
Capiz Butterfly Bookmark [http://www.tenthousandvillages.com/gifts-for-teachers/assorted-capiz-butterfly-bookmark] // $8
This majestic butterfly bookmark resembling colorful stained glass is made of Capiz, the thin shell of a marine mollusk. Fun fact: before glass windows became available in the Philippines, capiz was used for windows in houses.
Peru Finger Puppets [http://www.giftswithacause.org/Fair_Trade_Peru_Finger_Puppets_p/12022.htm] // $4.75
These adorable knitted finger puppets in bright colors are great for toddlers (3 years+) and those who think they are still children. Creative story telling is fun with these detailed hand-knitted characters by talented women in the highlands of Peru using anti-allergic, synthetic wool.
Orange Blossom Lip Balm [http://handinhandsoap.com/shop/orange-blossom-lip-balm.html] // $12 for 2 pack
Hand poured in printed metal tins, this shea butter lip balm from Hand in Hand protects and moisturizes lips with a delicate and natural scent (other available flavors include white tea, lavender, sea salt, and more). For every lip balm purchased, Hand in Hand donates 1 bar of soap & 1 month of clean water to children in the developing world.
Interwoven Recycled Wire Earrings [http://www.fairtradedesigns.com/interwoven-recycled-wire-earrings/] // $15
Made from recycled silver and bronze wires and interwoven to create a floral design, these drop earrings are a unique way to accessorize your ensemble. Handcrafted in India by a group of fair trade artisans supported by Noah’s Ark, a non-profit founded by one of the first people to introduce fair trade to India.
Sanyu Earrings [http://www.beadforlife.org/shop/beaded-jewelry/earrings/sanyu-earrings.html] // $13
These delicate earrings are made of paper beads by women at risk for extreme poverty in Uganda.
Rainbow Striped Scarf [http://www.serrv.org/product/rainbow-striped-scarf/scarves-knits] // $19.98 (On sale!)
Show some pride and wrap yourself comfort with this woven cotton rainbow patterned scarf made by VillageWorks artistans in Cambodia.
Men’s Tie [http://www.shopglobalmamas.com/Category/mens-accessories] // $18
Get Dad a tie that does some good this year with this one, handmade by Global Mamas artisans in Cape Coast.
Vintage Cotton Paper Journal [http://www.fairtradewinds.net/shop/vintage-cotton-paper-journal/]// $16
Handmade of recycled cotton by artisans in India. Cover features line art with a repeat pattern on the spine and back. Cord with tassel wraps journal closed, keeping it neat and stylish.
Cozy Kitty Panhandler [http://www.tenthousandvillages.com/foodie/cozy-kitty-panhandler ] // $12 Colorful kitten oven mitt keeps your hand safe from hot pan handles. Handmade in cotton by Guatemalan women. $12
Didn’t see anything you like here? Do your own shopping by using the term “fair trade” at the beginning of your Google searches and investigating how/where/by whom items were made before making the purchase. Happy gift giving!