Fair Trade, Buy Handmade
September 27, 2009 § 1 Comment
A while ago, I was trying to make a black and white decision about what I thought was better for my family: local or organic. What I’ve learned since starting those questions is that in our area most of the time local means organic, though it may not be certified organic. Either way, right? So, I’m tending toward local, even if it doesn’t have the organic sticker on it. Am I missing something here? Let me know, if I am.
Another thought came into my head later: What about Fair Trade?
It depends what it is… Coffee needs to be fair trade, since there is such a history of people trying to make a living off of very little in this field. Most things local will be fairly traded, but you must be cautious. There are companies who say they are local but their goods are manufactured in China. I don’t have a problem with China; it’s with the companies in the United States that pick China to do their dirty work. Cheap labor is not good for anyone. I know times are tight (I know I’m feeling it) but cheapening the work of others, despite the fact that we don’t know them, lowers their worth and in my opinion lowers ours as well. I’m learning this from living in Vermont; from having two little kids who are so pure and so giving to others. Bilingual baby even said that I made her baby brothers scooter simply because she saw me put it together- quite a feat, putting together something with all those tiny pieces, with two kids wide awake, ready to help- though it was more fun to have them help me than to have it appear in all its red shiny glory. In her eyes, people make things. I love it!
So, if a kid is going to ask, wonder and beg you to tell them who made this or who painted that, who grew the food, who put it in the silo (still with the silos), who made it? I can see why people take pledges to buy handmade. When you buy handmade, you get to know the person (even if only briefly) who has made whatever you’re buying. You get to know pieces of their life- you get a story with your purchase. If you buy something at a farmers market, you’ve probably seen the person under their tent several times, looked at their creations and talked to them about how they make it, what gives them inspiration, etc. Can you imagine knowing the first and last name of the person who made your dish towels, your spatula, or your … whatever? I know most people have a little mug that someone made. It was either a family member who took pottery classes or someone local who sells them in town. You treasure that mug. You pull it out when you have a friend come over for tea. You talk about it. You are so proud of the fact that someone- a person, not a machine- put time and energy into making the mug (or mugs) you love to use the most. It’s a great feeling.
We don’t buy handmade all the time, but we do try to go out of our way as much as possible to reach for handmade. It’s simpler when you have a sewing machine to reach for that fabric and make the thing that your family member needs. Bilingual papi kept using plastic grocery bags for his gym clothes. I stumbled upon a tutorial on how to make a cloth bag that looks like a plastic grocery bag. Need met. It felt really good, too.
I think the next step for me is to buy handmade (or make) the gifts I give to others. Most times I try to since I have a hard time shopping for gifts. However, when I find something cool to make, I can just make it and prep it for giving. I don’t know if I’m ready for the pledge but for now I’ll show you the button that you’d see if I were ready to make the pledge to buy handmade.
A couple of months back, I wanted to take the Wardrobe Refashion challenge, where you pledge to make all your clothes for a determined period of time from preloved clothes or from fabric, etc. Basically, you aren’t supposed to buy new for yourself, and you get to take it as far as you want (i.e. your family, gifts, etc).
Where does that leave me?
Lots of ideals. I like being an idealist, even if people peg me for a dreamer.