Shopping with Meaning

One of the big reasons I do all this thrifting jazz is that I want my money to go to something other than retail clothing giants who source materials in environmentally unfriendly ways and use sweatshop labor to make their products.  I’d rather the profit from something I buy go to a cause I believe in, like job training and creation at Goodwill, or—at various other thrift shops I’ve patronized—assistance for folks who are physically and/or intellectually differently abled, addiction treatment programs, kidney disease research, local charities, etc. etc.

Another place I’m willing to spend some money?  Socially conscious businesses that employ marginalized people who wouldn’t otherwise have a job.  Jewelry & accesories companies, I’ve noticed, often take this tack: the people on the ground get together with social entrepreneurs to get their wares into wealthier markets (like middle/upper class America) where people can afford/want to buy their products.

If I’m completely honest, it feels a little weird to say, “Let me buy this completely unnecessary bauble in order to fund your family’s grocery budget/school fees/healthcare/other things that are absolutely necessary.”  Why should my comparative economic privilege exist in the first place?  Why do I have to buy, in effect, luxury goods for someone else to merely eat?

But to hear employees tell it, it’s a way to get wealth from one side of the world to another that gives dignity and purpose to the people (most often women) producing the goods because they’re earning a living through a job.

So here’s one of those places I’m planning to patronize: Starfish Project enables women in Asia who have been exploited through human trafficking to find stability through employment making jewelry.  Give it a gander and see if anything tickles your fancy (or the fancy of someone you love with a birthday coming up….or your Valentine!).

Check some more out at Storyweaver Mercantile, a new online marketplace that gathers several such businesses in one handy place.  (Full disclosure: individual businesses featured may get 50% of the profit from your purchase when you buy through the mercantile, so consider going straight to the business’ own site.)

Scroll down to share your thoughts and social entrepreneurial enterprises you support!