My husband’s family introduced me to a new way of gift giving. They tend to practice conscious consuming. Presents that have been given to me in the past include homemade candles, fair trade coffee and olive oil, homemade cookies and candies and, my personal favorite, livestock donated to a family in need in my name through Heifer International http://www.heifer.org/
When I think about my morals and what I consider unethical the following come readily to mind: environmental degradation and human rights violations. Questions that I may ask myself before making a purchase include, “Is this item made in line with my morals/ values?” “Am I supporting the local economy?” “Are the people who produced this item treated and compensated fairly?” “Is this product built to last?”
As I mentioned earlier, one of the most common advertisements this time of year is for jewelry. Many people like to buy jewelry for a loved one; many people like to receive jewelry as well. Most of us have heard of conflict diamonds. Conflict diamonds are defined as diamonds mined in a war zone and sold to finance an insurgency, invading army's war efforts, or a warlord's activity, usually in Africa where around two-thirds of the world's diamonds are produced (wikipedia).
As a consumer I tend to avoid diamonds, opting instead for simple gold. Recently some disturbing facts about gold production have come to my attention. Here are a couple: One 18 karat gold ring produces 20 tons of polluted mining waste (ore and waste rock). “Few jewelers can tell you where the gold in their products originated. As a result, it's currently impossible to know if the gold we buy comes from a mine that dumps toxic waste in rivers, violates workers' rights, digs up wilderness areas, or evicts communities under the threat of violence.” For more information on the negative effects and implications of producing gold jewelry visit http://www.newdream.org/marketplace/worldwatch_gold.html
If jewelry is on your gift list you may want to look into buying fair trade jewelry. “Every piece of jewelry tells a story. Gold and diamonds are often produced at the expense of the earth and workers' rights and safety. Choose fair trade jewelry that provides a decent living to talented artisans, or gold and gems mined in a socially and ecologically responsible manner.” (http://www.newdream.org/marketplace/jewelry.php
To find out more about what exactly constitutes fair trade go to http://www.newdream.org/marketplace/fair_trade.php. . ). To find jewelry companies that work to support fair trade practices follow the above link.. While there you can click on any number of categories such as pet products, groceries or back to school. You can use this site to find fair trade jewelry, chocolate, pet food, apparel companies, etc.