Sunday, December 14, 2008

Oh man, is the holiday crazy totally on or what?

You know, every Christmas, Trevor and I try to get educational toys, books, and comic books for our gaggle of rambunctious nephews, and every year we feel sort of lame because while they are all great kids who always appreciate a gift from their Auntie and Uncle, what they really really want is plastic crap from China. So this year we decided just this once we'd give in and whore ourselves out to the People's Republic of Melamine, Lead Paint, and Horrific Labor Violations.

And as anyone exposed to children who are exposed to advertising knows, getting holiday lists from 2-7 year olds is a pointy, flashing, two-AA-battery laden plastic sea of Transformers, Bionicles, Ben-10, and random superhero toys. Most locally owned shops don't carry this stuff, so trying to mitigate possibly ethically-challenged gifts by at least shopping locally is also quite difficult.

So yes, I'll admit, I went whole hog: I went to Target.

Like other guilty American pleasures including but not limited to Jack in the Box and firearms, I do love myself some Target, but I only ever go once a year or so because 1) I want to support local business, and 2) going to the mall is like walking into hell. And ugh, I know, Target is really just the more pleasant -- albeit also union-busting and slave-wage paying -- cousin of that nasty, global community-raping behemoth, Wal-Mart. But unlike the Wal, they do offer domestic partnership benefits to their LGBT employees, more products made in the United States, and many green products, including organic foods and clothes.

Look at me rationalize! Such bad juju to shop at these types of stores -- especially when we're in a recession and we should be supporting our local economies instead.

So I'm here to ask you to help me with my bad juju: since I was only able to appease my moral conscience with my gifts for friends and non-children this year, help a sister out and give some love to my 2008 list of great places to shop for socially conscious, recession-busting holiday gifts.

1) Buy local whenever you can.

We all shop at chains, and that's not the end of the world. But doing it all the time can suck the lifeblood out of a vibrant and diverse community. One could go as far to say that democracy thrives in a culture of independent business. And just like our civil liberties can be slowly chipped away without our notice, by the time we realize the variety and spice we've lost in our communities by supporting big-box stores, one can feel like it's a lost cause that is too difficult to remedy. Not so!

I saw a great flyer the other day that recommended simply taking at least 4 days out of the month to support local business. Whether that's buying a book at your local bookstore one day or spending just a few dollars more for that birthday gift at your neighbor's shop the next week, buying local need not be bank-breaking, inconvenient, or difficult. It's an investment in your community -- and it's probably the safest investment one can make right now!

2) If you've got to buy non-US made or non-locally, why not buy fair trade?

Goods from China and many developing countries are cheap because gross labor violations and intimidation/exploitation of the poor and desperate drives down labor costs. But socially conscious alternatives need not cost you an arm and a leg. The Global Exchange offers over 100 fair trade gifts under $30.

3) Get your nature on: check out the rocks and fossils, beautifully polished and set as jewelry, from lapidopterix. Or spend your dollars at any number of other handcrafted artisan shops on Etsy.

Full disclosure: lapidopterix is a friend of mine who just started his wonderful little Etsy site. He travels all over the Western US on rock digs. When we visited him last, he took us out to a remote area of Northern Oregon to go augite hunting. We spent the afternoon in a beautiful rainforest setting, being rained on (naturally), digging our heels and our tiny hammers into the side of a muddy hill looking for little black faceted nuggets of goodness. What a blast!

He's been a rockhound as long as I've known him, and he really knows his stuff. Check out his gorgeous pieces, and if there's something specific you're looking for, hit him up on Etsy. Chances are he has it!

4) Honor your friends and family with a gift of supporting women's economic security, health, education, and leadership by making a donation to the Global Fund for Women.

Cutting back in a recession can be hard. But it is important to remember that compared to most other parts of the world, in the West during our recessions we are still very very rich.

Worldwide, women perform two-thirds of all labor and produce more than half of the world's food. Yet, women own only about one percent of the world's assets, and represent 70 percent of those living in absolute poverty. Supporting the Global Fund supports women's ability to contribute to and benefit from economic growth and development.

From the Global Fund for Women:

The Global Fund for Women provides grants to organizations that promote women’s economic empowerment through a variety of strategies, including skills training, access to microloans and organizing migrants and other women workers. Our grants promote women's leadership in environmental and natural resource management and efforts to educate policymakers on how macroeconomic policy and trade negotiations affect women’s economic well-being.

Happy shopping!

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Blogger stardust savant said...

Great guide! Since Michael and I live in the St. Augustine area we always try to do our shopping at local stores. There are just so many cool little shops with unique gift ideas that it seems silly not to take advantage.

December 15, 2008 at 6:15:00 PM PST  
Blogger rachel said...

i'm going to diesel tomorrow for a book recommended by trevor!

last year i got almost al my gifts at elephant pharmacy. we have a family tradition of christmas shopping at grocery stores.

i got "SUGAR CEREAL" and Koala Springs for my birthday!

December 16, 2008 at 5:15:00 PM PST  

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