Who made my Christmas present?
Christmas can be a wonderful time where people connect, share and give to each other. It can be a time of love, compassion and hope for the new year. However, if you begin the festive season without a conscious approach, it can quickly become a season of monumental waste and debt contributing to modern slavery. If you think I’m dramatic, let’s run through some stats.
In 2018, it was estimated that $400 million was spent on 10 million unwanted gifts which were later discarded: probably ending up in landfill. Also headed straight to landfill is the wrapping paper we use for each gift. In total, Australians use approximately 150,000 kms of wrapping paper each year. That’s enough to wrap around the earth’s equator four times! Adding insult to environmental injury: wrapping paper is almost-always coated in plastic, making it non-recyclable. Then, we also need to consider whether the gifts we give are helping or hindering those who make them, begging the question: who made my Christmas present?
The Global Slavery Index estimates more than 70 per cent of Australia’s imported clothing are sourced from countries considered to be at risk of using modern slavery (Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam). Since Australians are the second largest textile consumers globally, our wardrobes undoubtedly contain slave-made clothes. Let’s not add to it this Christmas.
Throughout the year, and at Christmas, aim to buy less, choose the best we can afford, and make those items last by repairing and laundering them consciously.
When shopping for new clothing for friends and family, look for Fairtrade accredited fashion brands, those with a B-Corp certification, or support a Social Traders social accredited social enterprise. You can also shop from local makers who use organic textiles in their wares, or shop secondhand: an especially terrific option for young children who grow before your eyes.
If you’re not quite sure on sizes or styles, consider giving a gift voucher to an ethical fashion brand to avoid waste.
One of the most commonly given gifts at Christmas is chocolate. We consume it on the daily in plastic-wrapped advent calendars, give boxes to each other, or bring it along to parties when we aren’t sure what else to bring. But chocolate is notorious for labour exploitation and slavery, including child labour.
Worth a staggering $150 billion USD, 50 million people worldwide depend on the chocolate industry for their livelihoods. Yet, most cocoa farmers (predominantly based in West Africa) live in poverty and can barely provide for their families. Their children will have little hope of escaping extreme poverty and modern slavery.
To ensure you give chocolate that helps support those who grow and produce it, look for the Fairtrade symbol. Only 10% of cocoa produced globally is sold under a Fairtrade agreement, but with your support, that number can grow. For more information about Fairtrade chocolate, click here.
There will be plenty of wish-lists featuring electronic devices this Christmas. Each year, Australia imports almost $7 billion USD worth of electronics from Malaysia and China: two countries accused of exploiting workers in slave-like conditions. In the last decade, the Chinese factory where iPhones are made has installed anti-suicide nets around their building to stop protesting workers from plunging to their death. Horrific.
Then, further down the supply chain, there are allegations children as young as six (or seven) are risking their lives and inhaling toxic dust to mine cobalt for the world’s largest electronic firms (while newborn babies inhale the dust, strapped to their working mothers). Cobalt is found in all of the world’s rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for phones, laptops, tablets, handheld gaming devices and even electric cars.
If you want to give an electronic device this Christmas, choose to buy from the secondhand market instead.
In festive conclusion:
Gift-giving can be a wonderful thing when done respectfully to those in our supply chains, as well as the planet. This year, aim to shop local, support truly ethical brands, and utilise the growing (and valuable) secondhand marketplace. Choose to give gifts wrapped in secondhand fabric or reusable gift bags instead of wrapping paper, and remember, the best gifts don’t necessarily come wrapped. Think charitable donations to great organisations like Day for Girls or Children’s Ground; or give the gift of an experience.
There are plenty of local cafes, restaurants and tourism-dependent businesses who have been hit hard this year and could use your support. So why not get out and about with your loved ones and spend time together seeing the sights, dining out and supporting the local music or entertainment industry. Together, you’ll make memories that last longer than the holiday season.