How shopping can help a good cause
Shopping is fun, but shopping for a good cause can save the worldThere is an altruistic streak in all of us. This is good because there is a whole lot of need in this world, and if each of us knew how and where to give, we could make some serious improvements. This is where our collective power as consumers comes in. By putting some thought into how and where you spend your precious dollars, you can turn a simple shopping session into a charitable action for good.
Be a Do-Gooder
Online shopping has opened up a world of possibilities never before realized in human history. “Mail order” has become so streamlined and simplified that it makes charitable shopping a much easier proposition than it used to be. All the information you need is at your fingertips, if you just have an idea of what you're looking for.
Many nonprofit organizations offer gifts like handmade jewelry, tote bags, or fair trade coffee of which a portion of the profits go toward the charity in question. Other sites allow you to make specific purchases or donations which go directly to a recipient in need (whether human, animal, or region). You can often make these donations on behalf of a particular person, and the organization will send you a card or some other personalized token noting the amount of the gift and the name of the person the gift is honoring. This is a great idea for a birthday for an altruistic friend, Christmas presents for family (to highlight the “season of giving”), or in honor of a loved one who has passed away but had a special place in their heart for a particular cause.
Some organizations, like World Vision, offer a little bit of both. You can buy your mother-in-law a pretty handmade bracelet while knowing that the company will use that money where it is most needed. Or, you can give a more direct gift, such as purchasing a goat and two chickens for a family in Uganda, on behalf of anyone you choose. The needy family will get livestock, which will enable them to feed their family and generate some extra income, while your chosen recipient gets a card stating the amount and type of donation you made in their name. It is a beautiful way to give where the gift is most needed.
Another option for conscientious shopping is to use the right search engine or web option. The search engine, goodsearch, allows you to choose a particular charity from a long list of organizations, and then every single search translates into a donation made to that charity on your behalf. You can change the charity at any time, and can even find some local nonprofits in your own state to benefit. Whether shopping or simply researching the best way to peel an egg, you will be doing good with every click through the goodsearch engine.
Amazon is also getting into the charity game with their recent addition, Amazon Smile. This is similar to goodsearch in that you choose a particular charitable organization and then shop away, knowing that with each qualifying purchase 0.5% of everything you spend goes to your chosen charity. The list here isn't as extensive, but most of the beneficiaries are well known entities such as The Nature Conservancy or Doctors Without Borders, so you can be reasonably certain your money is being used wisely.
Brick and Mortar
Out in the real world of store fronts and mom and pop stores, one easy way to shop conscientiously is to look for the words “fair trade.” Many stores these days carry some fair trade items, from coffee and chocolate at your local grocery store to responsibly made imported rugs at the department store. (Did you know in many parts of the world, small children are still weaving your rugs instead of going to school?)
There is, however, usually at least one or two specifically fair trade shops in most urban areas. These stores were created for the express purpose of sourcing and selling only those items which promise a fair wage and decent working conditions from areas where such working conditions are not the norm. Fair trade organizations typically also take environmental sustainability into account.
Supporting fair trade is a very direct way to affect change in some of the poorest, most exploited areas of the world. When we, the consumers, demand with our spending preferences a better product and better pay and working conditions for those who produce them, change will happen. Never underestimate the power of that almighty dollar, even when it’s just a few bucks at a time.