fair trade and financial responsibility

I must admit that I've been pretty bad with money lately. I've always had a shopping problem, but the thrill of a new job and new connections with ethical clothing brands exarcerbated it over the past couple months.

Shopping is what I do when I have free time. It's a hobby and, like most hobbies, it can gobble up money rather quickly if you don't watch it. When I have a moment to spare, I like to plop down in front of my computer and seek out new products on the internet. I like to tweet ethical brands and feature product boards. But I'm here to remind myself once again that a fair trade lifestyle is just as much about cutting back as it is about redirecting my shopping.

Fair trade products add up! The ethos of the industry allows us to use positive words like support and invest instead of splurge and indulge, but we're not really off the hook for our spending. I knew from the start that this journey would be a challenge and that it would mean changing the way I think about consuming, but I got to the point where I thought, "I've abstained from a good shopping spree long enough. Why not go a little wild?" Going wild is dangerous no matter what avenue you choose, but it comes with startling financial consequences when you're purchasing high cost, fair trade items.

Indulging versus Supporting

The advertising industry has successfully convinced a lot of us, myself included, that we deserve to indulge. But that's an outright lie! Shopping shouldn't be conceived of as a guilty pleasure we get to partake in if we're good people. Unfortunately, ethical brands often employ the same tactics with a twist. They tell us: "Not only do you deserve to cut loose; by doing so, you actually help people! In fact, the more you indulge, the more you support the disadvantaged in faraway lands! It's a win win. It's the future, people!"

But I'm convinced that the future is really about being as thoughtful as possible about each step we take on our path through the world. Think about where you spend, but also think about whether you should spend at all. Think about the repercussions of a choice from every angle. Think about your life goals and financial responsibilities.


So, I sent a lot of stuff back, but I'm left with many things I shouldn't have purchased. I'll be alright, but I know I didn't make the best choices.

The silver lining in all this is that I realized I have successfully gone a year without purchasing from brands with poor corporate social responsibility standards. I now naturally steer clear of companies that don't align with my values. That's progress. But I've still got a ways to go.