Now that the Halloween hoopla is over, it is time to rush into the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. It’s barely November and we are trained to start thinking one thing – gift ideas. With that in mind, I want to take my article in a different direction outside of the vintage realm.
The gifts we give nowadays are expensive, full of technological advances that will be outdated by the next holiday season, and less meaningful and more about the awe factor. So, I want to bring attention to gift-giving ideas that give in more than just one way. I want to talk about gifts that give back to communities and those that are less fortunate, instead of giving back to large companies that produce on a mass scale — replicating the same thing with no unique, one-of-a-kind value.
What I am trying to get at here is the idea of purchasing gifts that are “fair trade.” Fair trade is a movement that works to reduce poverty and offer aid and support to disadvantaged producers around the world; it is a global movement. More specifically, fair trade means that your purchase supports fair wages, gender equity, safe and dignified working conditions, environmental protection, biodiversity, and sustainable farming techniques. Furthermore, fair trade spreads happiness and job security in impoverished countries. The initiative allows small-scale producers to stay in charge of their economic independence.
Supporting stores such as Global Gifts or the Greenheart Shop will give you access to fair trade goods. Fair trade allows you to purchase unique cultural products with the peace of mind that you are actively addressing issues such as poverty, preserving the environment, and promoting an end to child labor. From jewelry and home goods to toys and food items, fair trade stores are filled with handmade, one-of-a-kind items that you won’t find anywhere else.
Aside from advocating fair trade, Global Gifts is a locally-owned, nonprofit organization with four locations in central Indiana and Ohio. The stores operate by a small staff and a dedicated team of volunteers.
Another fair trade store to visit is called Greenheart Shop, located on N. Wells in the Old Town/River North area of Chicago. Perhaps their motto and theme of standing up against the “wasteful, mass manufactured look,” is what makes the store inviting to me.
This history behind the Greenheart Shop is worthy of sharing. In 1985, Emanuel Kuntzelman founded the Center for Cultural Interchange (CCI) as a non-profit international education exchange organization. The organization was dedicated to the promotion of cultural understanding, academic development, environmental consciousness, and world peace. In 2004, CCI adopted the Greenheart initiative, an environmental and social initiative inspired by the work of the Casita Verde and the Greenheart movement on the island of Ibiza, Spain. In 2007, CCI expanded the Greenheart initiative to include fair trade and opened the Greenheart Shop in Chicago, Illinois.
Now to throw in my vintage plug, notably, some of the products found at fair trade stores are not only recycled but they are “upcycled.” Upcycling is a principle and process that most vintage lovers support. More so, it is a process that some vintage vendors use to sustain and make a living. Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials, products of better quality, or products that reflect a higher environmental value; it is turning old things into something “new” and better.
With all of this on your mind, I hope that you will consider fair trade and buying local when making gift-giving decisions. Spread the awareness, support the cause, and teach young.
1. Coffee was the first agricultural product to be certified fair trade in 1988.
2. Fair trade handcrafts have been sold since 1946.
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