Apr 13, 2011

Buying Well

Last week one of the local Christian radio stations promoted a concert tour called Not For Sale, which is a campaign to bring awareness to human trafficking and modern day slavery. I wasn't able to go to the concert, but as I listened to the interview on the radio before the show, I was shocked by what they were discussing. And I was convicted.

During the brief time that I listened to their conversation, they talked about how many of the products that we buy in our country's discount stores are cheap because they are made with child labor. Sometimes the labor is even forced.

When I got home, I googled "products made from child labor" and found this and several other articles that convicted me of my indiscriminate purchasing habits. Actually, what convicted me most was that this was not new information to me.

Several years ago I was made aware of sweatshops and I decided to change my shopping habits. For a little while. But ultimately I bowed to the bottom line of our budget and I wanted the most bang for my buck. That's easy to do when you look at the rising cost of living. That was my excuse. But at what cost am I saving when there is a moral cost involved? That's a higher price to pay.

Fifteen years after Kathie Lee's sweat shop scandal, children are still forced to make garments they'll never wear and toys they'll never play with. When I do a little research I am surprised to find that companies who I purchase from are among those who use child labor in the production of their products. All sorts of products. Chocolate won't ever be quite as satisfying.

I am only one person and I can't change the system myself, so why not buy cheap? Simply not buying cheap isn't going to change the conditions in Bangledesh or China or Argentina and the conditions that allow/permit/encourage forced child labor. They are really two different issues: 1.) child labor, and 2.) poverty so bad that children must labor in horrible conditions in order to avoid begging or selling themselves.

I'm thinking a lot about this lately:

How will I change my purchasing habits? If I change my purchasing habits because of the moral issue of where the products come from, will it be only to appease my own guilt? Or should I also get involved in improving the condtions? And what can I do about it anyways?

To begin with, I'll make an effort to buy well instead of just cheap. It's not much, but I can do it and it's a start.

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