I’ll just come out and admit it: I’m seriously coveting this year’s Reindeer Cushion. (It seems a lot of you are too – the online stock is almost gone.)
The cushion is a perfect example of what fair trade looks like today: Contemporary. Beautiful. Handmade. And, yes, a little trendy.
As a customer, it’s also a product that I can feel good about buying or giving this season (although, sorry, I’m keeping mine!). Not only do I love the way it looks, but because it comes from Ten Thousand Villages, I’ll never have that niggling worry that I’m improving my own life at the expense of someone else’s.
Yet here’s the thing. Many people have the impression that your average fair trade shopper gives off a “granola” vibe. Suffice to say, that’s not me!
Looking at me, you’d probably never guess that I’m a passionate fair trade shopper. I’m usually wearing a full face of makeup (and can swipe on a matte red lip that rivals any hipster in New York), I waste at least an hour a week on Pinterest checking out décor ideas, and I’ve taken the kids to Disney World – gasp – more than once. (Relax, we visit family in Florida. It’s not just about the mouse.) Comfortable sandals and socks? No thanks.
That hardly means I turn a blind eye to human suffering and despair, however. If there’s a way I can make a positive difference in another person’s life – even by simply buying a cushion – I’m all for it. Dignity, and the path toward it, can start with a simple, almost mindless, act. You don’t have to pick up stakes and move to the other side of the world to create positive change. It can also begin at home with spending decisions, but the impact can be felt on the other side of the planet.
I write books for kids, and sometimes I’m fortunate enough to be invited to schools to talk about money and consumerism. I often tell the story of a simple dollar and how it travels from their wallets and spreads out to touch many people – from the shop owner in the store to the factory worker who made their t-shirt. One student told me, “Money has octopus arms that can tickle… or hurt.”
Children get it. It doesn’t take much to convince them that their dollars have impact and it’s up to them to decide what that impact will be.
Do I think retail will save the world? Of course not. There are massive, complex socio-economic problems that require equally complex solutions. But buying a fair trade reindeer cushion or whipping up a batch of Christmas cookies using fair trade chocolate chips is a start.
‘Tis the reason I shop at Ten Thousand Villages. What’s yours?
Kira Vermond is a journalist and author of The Secret Life of Money (Owlkids, 2012) and Why We Live Where We Live (Owlkids, 2014). Full disclosure: she also writes many of the online Ten Thousand Villages product descriptions. (In other words, if you read a bad pun on our site, blame her.) She lives, works and covets cushions in Guelph, Ontario. She can be found at www.vermond.ca.