As many of you know, this Advent, Kory’s sermon series is premised on the book, Advent Conspiracy. Advent Conspiracy is a movement started about six years ago by a group of pastors who had grown weary of the consumerism that dominates the Christmas scene. They decided to do Christmas differently, and over the past six years, they’ve taken countless individuals and churches along for the ride. And while Advent Conspiracy is definitely targeted to address this issue at Christmas time, it’s really a way of life. A call to worship fully. To spend less. To give more. And to love all.
All year long.
As Kory and I prepared our hearts and minds to begin this study with our church, one of the things that struck me most was the idea of intentional, socially responsible spending. That is, looking for ways to spend our consumer dollars with merchants who are donating a portion of their proceeds to those in need, who are tackling social or environmental issues on a local or global scale, or who are providing dignified and sustainable jobs to those who would otherwise be unemployed.
Honestly, I didn’t know much about intentional spending until a few months ago, and my learning curve is still steep. But it seems that every day, I’m discovering new companies whose visions and missions are profound, and they’re touching my heart. It feels really good to buy things from them, and I have to say, I’ve been bowled over by the quality of the things we’ve purchased, by the love that goes into their creation, by the stories behind them, and by the customer service that accompanies each purchase.
Yet shopping socially responsibly isn’t easy. The number of companies engaged in this kind of work is small. And they’re not easy to find. Just type “socially responsible companies” into a search engine and see what comes up. But I’ve been able to use social media to help our family begin this journey, and I want to share with you what I’ve learned.
If you happen to live in our area, please consider visiting the Alternative Gift Market at the church we serve tomorrow from 8:30-12:00. (Click here to see a list of vendors and organizations who are participating.) If you don’t live near us, below I’ve highlighted some of the companies I’ve recently purchased from. I’ve also included links to other merchants I’ve discovered on social media and other blogs. I’ve not yet had the opportunity to support these merchants but I plan to buy from in the future as we continue to make new habits about how we are spending our consumer dollars. If you know of other companies that fit the description of being socially responsible, please consider taking a moment to share a link to their website in a comment!
There are approximately 150 million orphans worldwide who are at risk for trafficking, exploitation, abuse, starvation, and psychological disorders. There are countless other children who live in such extreme poverty that they are in danger of abandonment, disease, lack of education, and malnutrition.
This is a crisis.
But there is hope as a result of God’s work through some wonderful organizations like Ornaments 4 Orphans that are advocating for these children.
According to their website, “Ornaments 4 Orphans exists to bless these children by connecting their needs with our Christmas traditions. Ornaments 4 Orphans sells beautiful, fair trade items handcrafted in impoverished communities, then uses the proceeds to enrich the lives of orphans and vulnerable children.” Not only does Ornaments 4 Orphans use its proceeds to bless the lives of at risk children around the world, it also provides dignified, sustainable jobs for artisans in the developing world who are using their wages to provide for their families.
Sold on the mission, I purchased these gorgeous angel ornaments from Ornaments 4 Orphans as gifts for our children’s choir directors. And I must say, the picture does not do them justice. They are stunning! (They are also currently on sale if you purchase them in a four-pack!) You can also host parties for Ornaments 4 Orphans. To learn more about that click here.
Did you know that right after food and water, one of the most common requests among the homeless is a clean pair of socks? That’s what the founders of Mitscoots Socks discovered when they were ministering to the homeless in Austin, Texas. So now, they live by a Get + Give + Employ mission. For every pair of socks they sell, they give a pair to the homeless. They also take pride in employing those less fortunate to help them package and mail all the socks they are distributing to their customers and to the communities they serve.
Friends, the quality of these socks is unbelievable, and the patterns are so fun! I encountered this company on a day I was actually planning to go sock shopping for myself, so I purchased a few pair for my own tootsies. I bought some for the other tootsies in my family as stocking stuffers.
Trades of Hope is a company that exists to empower women who lack opportunity around the globe. They partner directly with the artisans who are providing goods for sale and organizations who are helping women in difficult circumstances. Trades of Hope promotes their products through the home party model, and by offering their products for sale in the United States, Trades of Hope provides opportunities for these women to put food on the table, to put a roof over their head, to get needed medical attention, and to keep their children in school.
I purchased this gorgeous Haitian Family Tree for a friend of mine whose family grew from three to five when she and her husband decided to adopt two teenage boys from Haiti. It’s made out of a metal oil drum from Haiti by artisans in Haiti, and it has five birds on it — one for each member of her family. It’s the perfect gift, and when I got it, I was so pleased! I can’t wait to give it to her.
Fair and Square Imports is a brick and mortar store not far from my neck of the woods. Fair and Square Imports carries only fair trade items from over 40 developing countries around the world including unique, global home goods, decor, jewelry, coffee, accessories, Lily and Laura bracelets, Sseko sandals, gifts, cultural treasures, and much more. I purchased these journals from Fair and Square Imports to give our kids for Christmas. You can click here to read about how we’re using them.
As a result of becoming more environmentally conscious, but still being an avid lover of the Keurig single serve coffee maker, I’ve been on the hunt for a single serve coffee cup (“K-Cup”) that’s environmentally friendly. I found it here at Rogers Family Company Coffee and Tea, and I can’t tell you how excited I am about it.
Rogers sells a line of 97% biodegradable single serve coffee cups that includes a wide variety of options such as a breakfast blend, french roast, pumpkin spice, decaffeinated variety (using the natural water process), and several other options. The company is on a mission to make the cup 100% biodegradable. You can read about that here. Kory and I have been taste testing the organic decaffeinated and rainforest varieties this month, and we love them! We also love the fact that the box, the plastic packaging used to keep the cups fresh, and the storage container provided are also made from recycled products and are either recyclable themselves or biodegradable. (The plastic bags are biodegradable. Can I hear an amen?)
Coupled with Rogers Family Company’s extremely transparent website and its mission to make a difference in the world through Fair Direct Trade and a Community Aid Program, we are sold! Rogers also sells bags of whole bean and ground coffees and has a large selection of teas.
According to its website, “Equal Exchange’s mission is to build long-term trade partnerships that are economically just and environmentally sound, to foster mutually beneficial relationships between farmers and consumers and to demonstrate, through [its] success, the contribution of worker co-operatives and Fair Trade to a more equitable, democratic and sustainable world.”
I learned about Equal Exchange Coffee through the Alternative Gift Market where I purchased the Organic Breakfast Blend and the Organic Unwind Decaf Single Serve Cups (100% recyclable) to try at home and some Organic Hot Cocoa Mix to give as a gift. I’ve been pleased with the coffee and can’t wait to hear what my gift recipient thinks of the cocoa! Equal Exchange also sells chocolate, tea, bananas, and fair foods.
In addition to these companies I can personally vouch for, I’ve unearthed some others that I look forward to supporting in the future. Links to their sites are listed below. If you know of others that aren’t already on this list, would you please put a link in a comment so we can keep the list growing? Can you imagine the difference we could make if we all committed to spend our dollars in a more socially responsible way?