A Note from Beth Tiger – Since 2011, I have owned a retail shop that offers hand-made, fair trade and survivor made goods. As my work at Durga Tree International increased, I made the decision to close the shop and focus my energy on expanding the efforts of Durga. However, my experience at the shop is one of the reasons I co-founded this organization.
What I learned as I purchased retail for my shop is how so much of what we buy today is made by people here in the US and abroad that are not being paid a living wage. Many of them are actually enslaved and are forced to produce these products. As I dug deeper into this issue what became clear for me were two things; the first was that when we are not thinking about who is producing the products we buy we are placing the “value” on the product solely and not the human being who created it. The second thing that became crystal clear for me was that consumerism is based on supply and demand, so if we do not question the integrity of the manufacturing of products we purchase and still demand we receive them at a “cheap price”, through our apathy and the demand of the product we are directly contributing to the contemporary slave trade. This horrified me. I have always considered myself to be fairly aware of the world around me
I realize this might sound harsh, but the time has come for us to take steps to shift this paradigm. Many of us did this in the late 20th century around recycling and global clean up. When I was a child, no one talked about or even thought about recycling. I guess there was this notion that the world and it’s resources were ours to use until they were exhausted. When conversations sprang up and organizations such as GreenPeace were founded, people became educated about how our lifestyles were negatively affecting our planet. From the efforts of a small group of people, a ripple happened and today all around the globe there is a growing movement of recycling, utilizing renewable energy sources, organic farming practices & the care for our oceans and eco systems worldwide. We now understand that we need to preserve our Mother Earth. This trend still expands but like every great shift it started with individuals questioning the way things were being done and then taking single steps toward a change.
I believe we have the ability to do that within the consumer marketplace. If we consume consciously we can create a shift and decrease the “demand” for slave made goods. There are so many fair trade, hand made and survivor options to choose from when we shop. We also have through our voice, social media and the written word the opportunity to spread awareness and question the manufacturing of other items through large retailer brands and chains on a national as well as international level.
Where to begin? How about this holiday, consider purchasing your gifts through smaller outlets & local business’s where you can ask questions such as “who made this?” “where did it come from?”. There are many benefits to this type of giving. You are not only supporting an artisan, often times these types of gifts are made with great intention, therefore offering a wonderful story and energy you can include with the gift. Wherever you are shopping, don’t be afraid to ask the questions even in large retail stores. This holiday let’s create a ripple by giving gifts that change lives, that improve not only our lives but those who created the products we are gifting.
Below are some wonderful resources for handmade, fair trade and survivor made gifts. If you are in the Jersey area, feel free to stop into the Durga Marketplace in Ramsey, NJ on 12/20 from 11-4. We have many unique gift items from around the globe.
Relevee ~ http://relevee.com/
The Brave Collection ~ http://thebravecollection.com/pages/story
Re-Imagine ~ http://love146.org/reimagine/
100 Good Deeds ~ http://www.100gooddeeds.org/
Fair Trade USA ~ http://fairtradeusa.org/