Saturday, August 1, 2009

Humanitarian IKEA offsets

The other night Nate and I made a couple of superfluous purchases at IKEA: namely, two fish hand-puppets and a stuffed guinea pig. (Guinea pig:; fish picture not available). Note: this was my first trip to IKEA in over a year and Nate's first visit ever.

While shopping, we noticed that our new friends were made in Indonesia and Vietnam, respectively. This quelled our urge to consume, as we considered the possibly tiny (as in, child's) hands that brought our toys into existence; hands roughened and toughened by hours of work at blasphemously low pay. Considering our faraway brothers and sisters, we asked ourselves: how can we morally make these purchases, as doing so will--to some small degree--prop up the structures of oppression that keep our friends in bondage?

While we held off on making other purchases, we did end up taking the fish and the guinea pig home for $12. We'd grown attached to them over the course of our journey through IKEA and chose not to part with them. In truth, the fact that we rarely make purchases--nevermind superfluous ones--abetted our affirmative decision-making. I get my clothes and furniture secondhand, and I buy at least a third of our groceries at a re-sale shop (it's safe, I promise!). Since my exploitative-shopping footprint is already a tiny one, I didn't feel as bad making this purchase.

Yet Nate & I still felt a little guilty because we recognized this situation as a moral choice in which we'd made the less-than-virtuous decision. SO! We committed to offsetting our shopping footprint by making a donation of double what we spent on unnecessary items ($12*2=$24) to a women's community empowerment organization focusing on work and education:

I know that I probably won't be able to do this sort of thing every time I consider purchasing something that I suspect came about through coercive means. In that case, I hope I'll just do without.

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