“Are My Hands Clean?” Fair Trade Activity

“Are My Hands Clean?” Fair Trade Activity

Whether we mean to or not, when we purchase goods and services we support the businesses that produce, deliver, and sell them.  As consumers, our choices directly or indirectly sustain the industries and practices that go into making the products we buy. Wrapped up in every product are the materials used in manufacturing the goods, the energy inputs and environmental impacts of producing and transporting the goods, and the human labor used in making, packaging, and bringing products to market. We may not know the whole source map, supply-chain history, or all the labor and environmental practices for the companies and industries we support through our pocketbook, but in many cases we can find out if we look beyond the label. 

Consider what you’re wearing. Do you know where each clothing item was made? (Perhaps ask a friend look at a label if you need help.)

  • Imagine the distance your clothing took to get from the garment factory to get to you. 
  • Share examples of major manufacturing countries, clothing manufacturers/exporters and importers/retailers.  Share typical distances these manufactured goods travel.

How many steps can we identify in the process of making your shirt, such as collecting raw materials, manufacturing, shipping and selling these goods? How many hands go into making your clothes before you handle it? 

What are some of the “costs” to making your shirt besides what’s on the price-tag?  Can we identify some of the impacts on people and the environment that we should consider as we strive to make ethical choices as consumers? Who benefits in the process of making a shirt? Who/what might be negatively impacted? How do concepts like transparency and accountability help address human rights or environmental abuses? 

  • Share stories you may have seen about sweatshops and factory conditions like the Bangladesh factory collapse, trafficking of child laborers, abuses in diamond and other mining operations, environmental impact of fast fashion, carbon fuels, etc. 

As consumers, are we accountable for the unseen supply-chain that goes into our clothes, our fuel, or our food?  Are there faith issues at stake here?  What should we all know and do as mindful, faithful consumers? How can we contribute to greater environmental sustainability, just labor and manufacturing practices, and fair trade? 

  • Global Ministries affirms the idea of “Ubuntu” – I am because you are. So, when one of our siblings is suffering, we all suffer. Global Ministries has listened to the concerns of partners for centuries and both ecological and economic justice are regularly brought up as concerns. How can we uplift and care for our global siblings, and, in the spirit of Ubuntu, find ourselves lifted up in the process? 
  • Ideas: Consider a more sustainable wardrobe. Shop from thrift and second-hand stores. “Shop your closet” creating trendy new outfits from clothes you already have. Set up a clothing swap at church or with friends where people can give and take clothing items for free. If possible, invest in some “slow fashion” pieces or fair-trade garments made with environmentally friendly fabrics and created in dignity-affirming factories. Not specifically clothing related, but you can also support microcredit initiatives that share meaningful employment and affirm dignity for people in communities all over the world. Many Global Ministries Women’s Empowerment projects include microcredit initiatives. What other ideas do you have? What small actions can you take that, over time, might have a big impact?