Bring fair trade and alternative shopping home for the holidays


Christmas is a time for giving–and it's a perfect time for fair trade. Fair trade allows you to give twice: first in buying a product and then in giving it as a gift. Below learn more fair trade and where you can find it. You'll also find a comprehensive list of charitable organization for your end of the year giving.

What is fair trade?

A certified fair trade label allows you the consumer to be confident that the creator or grower of the product or commodity you are purchasing has been properly compensated for their labor. Farmers and craftspeople use the additional income earned to provide education and healthcare for their children and to improve communities.

Buying from fair trade outlets also usually means you will have the opportunity to learn about the people behind the products as you shop. The networks often allow you to build the connection between producer and consumer that the anonymous world of free trade actively discourages. It used to be difficult to find fair trade products, but these days the fair trade option is becoming more and more viable.

Fair trade as a progressively growing international movement, according to TransFair USA. Each year, more fair trade certified commodities, produce, and manufactured goods are becoming available to American consumers.


Where do I find fair trade items?

Your first stop might be your local church to see if they're planning to hold a fair trade sale day or run their own fair trade shop year round. But you can find an increasing number of fair trade outlets online. The list below is by no means comprehensive, nor does a listing here indicate any sort of endorsement from Claretian Publications and U.S. Catholic. Do a little homework yourself and decide whom you're comfortable giving your dollars to, then shop well, not often. Good luck!

Ethical shopping resources on the Internet

Catholic Relief Services fair trade shop

AFL-CIO Union shop

The Union Mall


Co-op America


Fair Trade Federation's online catalog list

Fair Trade Federation's retail store list

Global Exchange


Maya Traditions

SERRV International

Ten Thousand Villages

TransFair's Fair Trade Month

Where to buy fair trade products

Commodities (Coffee)

Cafe Mam

Equal Exchange

Franciscan blend

Find out more about Fair Trade

Ethical Consumer magazine (from England)

Fair Trade Federation


Resources for charitable giving:

Bread for the World: Celebrating more than 25 years of seeking justice for the world's hungry people, Bread for the World is a Christian voice for ending hunger in the new century.

Catholic Charities USA is the nation's largest, private network of people helping people. The 1,400 local agencies and institutions provide social services across the country to more than 10 million people in need each year-regardless of religious, ethnic, racial, or social background. Catholic Charities USA aims to reduce poverty, support families, and empower communities in the United States.

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development spends just 13 percent of its resources on administrative and fundraising costs.

Catholic Relief Services spends a paltry 7 percent of its donation dollars on administrative and fundraising costs.

Here's a list of top-rated charities from the American Institute of Philanthropy.

The Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance at Give.org
Give.org is the web site for The BBB Wise Giving Alliance. Give.org collects and distributes information on hundreds of nonprofit organizations that solicit nationally or have national or international program services. It routinely asks such organizations for information about their programs, governance, fund raising practices, and finances when the charities have been the subject of inquiries.

The BBB Wise Giving Alliance never recommends one charity over another, and selects charities for evaluation based on the volume of donor inquiries about individual organizations. These policies allow the Alliance to serve donors' information needs and also help donors to make their own decisions regarding charitable giving. The volume of public inquiries helps identify which national charities will be the subject of a BBB Wise Giving Alliance Report.

Charity Watch
The American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP) is a  nationally prominent charity watchdog service whose purpose is to help donors make informed giving decisions. Its Charity Watch website provides visitors with information about AIP, the charities it rates, and its method of grading charities. Special features will focus on Top Salaries, Top-Rated Groups, and hot topics in charitable giving

Other features include Tips for Giving Wisely, a helpful-hints guide for getting the most for the dollars you donate; answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ); praise from the press; useful and interesting articles on a variety of topics relating to charitable giving.

GuideStar's mission is to revolutionize philanthropy and nonprofit practice with information.

The National Association of State Charity Officials
NASCO maintains a contact list of all state agencies that have oversight of charitable solicitations.

The National Catholic Community Foundation
NCCF is structured to facilitate engaged philanthropy through continual involvement of individuals, families, communities and organizations.

NCCF was created to address the needs of persons and organizations who wish to engage in philanthropic activities which support the ministries of the Catholic Church, but do not have the ability to organize a traditional private foundation.

Network for Good
Network for Good is the first coalition of its kind to help nonprofit organizations become more effective and efficient. Network for Good will help them further their mission by integrating the full power of the online medium into their own operations such as fundraising, recruitment and advocacy.

At shopping portals such as GreaterGood.com, iGive, and GoodShop (part of GoodSearch), Internet users can shop at leading online merchants–including Amazon.com, Priceline, Nordstrom, Land's End, Dell, Office Max, 1-800 flowers, and more–and up to 30 percent of each purchase automatically goes to an organization you select at no extra cost. Shoppers can support local and national charities, the nation's K-12 schools, and college and university scholarship funds.

Heifer Project International directly combats poverty by giving livestock and trees, along with training for their upkeep, to families throughout the world. This year, you can give the gift of geese ($20 per flock), sheep ($140 for a whole one or $10 per share), heifer ($500 whole or $50 per share) and much more to those on your list who already have it all. You'll also be helping to combat hunger, support women's businesses, and care for the environment with each donation.

(Resources originally published on Salt of the Earth.)

About the author

Kevin Clarke

Kevin Clarke is the chief correspondent for America magazine and author of Oscar Romero: Love Must Win Out (Liturgical Press).

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