Have a very merry, ethical Christmas

Leah Newhouse, Managing Editor of Design

During the holiday season the mall is busy and so are the hands of little Chinese children.

I have known about the unethical practices and wages of different working places including Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters for many years, but I just kept it in the back of my mind.

Just a few months ago, I finally took the initiative to make a change. Instead of giving my money to companies who mistreat and underpay their workers, I have decided to only support companies who treat their employees in an ethical manner and pay them fairly. This means I refuse to purchase any of my clothing items from almost anywhere in the mall. Unfortunately, this includes my previously favorite stores listed above.

In place of shopping at the mall, I have decided to turn to fair trade and second-hand stores to support my retail needs. Because of my decision, I have highly encouraged my friends and family members to give out presents for Christmas that were bought from humane businesses, and I also encourage you.

While strolling around the mall looking for a gift, I’ve noticed common factor in almost every store at the mall is the tag with the words “made in *insert underdeveloped country here.*” This tag represents where the clothing was made and gives one the indication of how the worker was treated.

One of the most frequent underdeveloped countries seen on that tag is China. According to ethical.org, “Chinese production workers are paid a government wage of 64 cents an hour, assuming a 40 hour week.” This means the workers there are getting paid $25.50, or 176.02 Chinese yuan, a week for working a full time job. The average weekly income in China is about 1,193 Chinese yuan, according to tradingeconomics.com, so Chinese employees working in unethical environments are getting paid only about 15 percent the amount of an average worker in China.

By purchasing fair trade goods for Christmas, you would be ensured that the person who made the product was paid a fair amount for the work and was not forced into child or slave labor. Fair trade workers’ salaries are based on many factors, including the amount of work they produce and where they live, according to fairtradefederation.org.

Popular fair trade products that could be used as stocking stuffers are chocolate and coffee. These two items are easily spotted at the grocery store with a Fair Trade Certified label on it. However, fair trade stores, like byTavi and Global Gifts, also sell clothing, accessories and home goods that are made with quality and produced through equality.

The only downside of fair trade is that it can hurt a high schooler’s bank account. Many fair trade products are equivalent to the price of any other high quality product. An inexpensive alternative to fair trade that is just as ethical is second-hand shopping.

Thrifting for Christmas presents, on the other hand, saves money and shouldn’t give one  a guilty conscience. You can still by designer brand clothing that is less that half the price and doesn’t support that business’ unethical practices. Many thrift stores, like Goodwill, hire and support older workers and workers with disabilities or criminal backgrounds. Goodwill provides their employees “English language training, additional education, or access to transportation and child care,” according to Goodwill.

Second-hand stores are filled with reasonably priced, unique clothes, furniture and accessories that sometimes cannot be found at the mall.

Purchasing gifts from humane businesses could save you money or even save a life. This Christmas, make a difference by being aware of who is making the gifts you are buying for your friends and family members. By doing this, you are actually giving two presents. The first present is to a loved one, and the second is to a company who supports and respects their employers.