Yesterday, I blogged about a book that was super helpful in practically spelling out how we can practice justice (aka love our neighbors) in our everyday lives. The author speaks my language – she gave a great deal of information about issues of injustice, and then gave some really practical ways to act justly.
I’ve been thinking a lot since I read the book about what I am going to do to change some of the unjust practices in my life. I want changes to be sustainable – fitting within my budget and my life in a way that will create long-term adoption as common practice. But I also want the changes to hurt a little. I can sacrifice some comforts so that others don’t have to sacrifice their dignity, their safety, and in some cases, their lives, right?
So, here are some small changes that I am going to make to my everyday life:
1. Buying only fair trade coffee – no exceptions. I learned about fair trade coffee 8 years ago, and jumped fully on the train. It seemed like an easy enough trade to make in my grocery shopping. I got really excited that Trader Joe’s carried fair trade coffee because their coffee is impeccable. But then one day after a few years of faithful fair-trade purchasing, I veered from the green fair trade lids that TJ’s so helpfully distinguishes for us, and tried this Nicaraguan blend called Maragogype and it changed my life a little. And so I regularly started purchasing this non fair-trade blend, telling myself it was ok. But it wasn’t. My everyday consumption of a coffee that isn’t fairly traded affects the lives of farmers in Nicaragua who aren’t being paid a fair wage for their tireless labor. I’ve heard the argument before that fair trade coffee is more expensive than non fair-trade. This is true when you’re comparing say Trader Joe’s to Folgers, but it’s not necessarily true when you’re comparing Trader Joe’s Fair Trade to Trader Joe’s non fair trade. But I love how the author of Everyday Justice addresses this: Coffee all costs the same, it’s just that one of us pays the price. In the case of buying cheap non fair-trade coffee, the farmer pays so that we can have a bargain. (insert big gulp) One day, maybe Trader Joe’s will have fair trade Maragogype, and when that happens, I can assure you that I will be high-fiving a million angels.
2. Buying only fair-trade slave-free chocolate – I love chocolate, like lo-o-ove it! Sadly, the big chocolate companies that mass market the majority of the chocolate we are all enjoying in large doses this week thanks to the Easter Bunny, do not treat their workers well. Many of those who farm cocoa beans are modern-day slaves, laboring against their will and in inhumane conditions all so that I can get my Reese’s peanut butter cup fix. It makes me feel sick that my consumption of sweets is affecting children all over the world. Buying fair-trade chocolate is a good start to knowing that the chocolate has been farmed slave-free (although not a guarantee). Yes, fair-trade chocolate is more expensive than mass-produced stuff, but I’ve been trying to kick the sweet-tooth anyway, this is good for me! Obviously my stopping purchasing Reese’s isn’t going to stop slavery, but it’s a start. Read the book, there’s more we can do. This is just a starting place for me.
3. I’m growing my own garden – I’ve been wanting to garden for years, but wanted to wait until I owned a home, as gardening is an investment. After reading this book, I was more convinced than ever that it was time, afterall, I now own a home. I’ve done a lot of reading over the last 10 years about nutrition and food… And the truth is, I know what I should do, but I don’t necessarily have the budget to purchase all the types of food that I know are ethically and healthfully best. My own garden is a start. The food we eat affects our neighbors. The pesticides that keep our veggies looking good, are also harming/killing the farmers that pick our food. The food that we eat affects our environment, as well. I’m excited to start somewhere.
4. I’m composting – Adam and I read Serve God Save the Planet a few years ago and it literally changed our everyday practices. I’ll blog about that soon. We got vigilant about recycling and precycling and re-using… This year’s addition to reducing waste is composting. It will help my garden, and it’s going to be a fun experiment in how much we reduce our waste!
5. I’m changing my clothes shopping habits – This is the scariest one I’m putting out there, but I’m doing this for a little accountability. This year, yes, the whole year, I’m going to try to buy all of my clothes used. I watched a documentary a few years ago that haunted me, about the inhumane sweatshops that produce the majority of clothes that I can afford, but it didn’t haunt me enough to change my shopping habits. I love a good bargain. I can only afford a good bargain. And so I perpetuate the cycle of poverty and terrible working conditions for folks around the world. But I read this book and was reminded of how my fashion choices affect others, that they aren’t just about me, and I learned about all of the harmful chemicals that go into making my clothes, and I started thinking about what I can do within my budget to change my consumption. And I settled on thrift shopping. I will buy what has already been purchased, thus, not adding to the problem. I have always been a fan of the thrill of the hunt, and the best part is, I have a catchy theme song for my efforts. I think this will also affect how much I shop and will help narrow down when I really need new clothes and when I want new clothes. Disclaimer: I will not buy used underwear, I can’t and I won’t so now we all know.
The goal of me sharing this with you is not to start a debate about if these efforts are going to help in the grand scheme (read the book, then we can debate), it’s really just a form of accountability. Feel free to check in on me, ask if I’m acting justly in my daily choices. Let’s start chatting more about this. Acting justly, is really about acting with awareness and intention. It’s a mindfulness that the purpose of my life isn’t to serve me, but rather to serve others.
So here we go… Want to join me?