It is the most wonderful time of the year. We are running from event to event, rushing to get packages to the post office, and hoping that we didn’t leave anyone off our lists. At the very time that we are supposed to be feeling the love of family and friends, we are stomping over each other to get the last flat screen television on Black Friday. This season should be a time for spreading joy and love.
The holidays have become an industry valued at over $435 billion each year in the United States. To put this figure into perspective, Bill Gates recently explained that, since efforts to end polio have thus far reduced cases by 99.9%, only $5.5 billion more would be needed to eradicate polio forever by 2018. It sounds like a lot, but we could wipe polio off the face of the earth for less than 2% of the money we’re spending on the holidays.
The average household spends around $1,500 on holiday gifts. As we pass our shopping baskets across the cash register we are voting on the world in which we want to live. Fair trade or child labor? Eco-friendly or toxic? Labor laws or slavery? The choices that we make at the point of sale shape the way that businesses operate. For example, the Fair Trade Foundation has grown exponentially since its start in 1992 by providing customers with quality products and making social consciousness a key priority for many shoppers. Consumers have said that they want the things they purchase to make a huge difference in the lives of others and businesses are responding.
Many organizations offer products that allow you to give a gift while fighting extreme poverty. The Somaly Mam Foundation’s Empowerment Store offers jewellery, scarves, and cards that have been made by survivors of sex trafficking. Each purchase provides increased educational and vocational opportunities for young women. Made By Survivors sells jewellry and clothing that have been made by landmine victims. Global Goods Partners sells fair trade products made by artisan groups in 20 different countries.
This best gift this holiday season is the gift of knowing that, in some small way, you helped bring an end to poverty. Heifer International allows you to purchase livestock such as goats or chickens for a family in need. Adopt a Minefield accepts donations to help clear minefields in countries like Cambodia. The options for socially conscious gifts abound.
In his story of how the holiday spirit transformed the life of one individual, Dr. Seuss explains, “He puzzled and puzzed till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. Maybe Christmas, he thought... doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps... means a little bit more!”