Social Justice

Responsible Shopping: The Princess Conundrum

Well, I laid it all out on the table last week when I said that I was done with purchasing not-fairly-made things. Big commitment. One I’m kind of excited about. I thought I would kind of give myself an easy start- you know, like buying an American-made Slinky or an American flag.

Nope. There were doing sign ups at church to adopt a family for Christmas and I made a beeline to write my name next to princess toys for the 8-year-old.

Princess. toys.

Why did I do that? I don’t know. We rode our bikes to church, so maybe I was feeling light-headed or maybe I just really enjoy challenges. I spent about 2 hours on Amazon Sunday night perusing their princess toys and getting completely frustrated because none of it is fair trade/fairly made. I decided to take my chances at Toys’R’Us. Surely, with their aisles and aisles of pink things, they’ll have ONE, just one, age appropriate toy that wasn’t made in China. How wrong I was.

I spent at least 45 minutes wandering the aisles, picking up things indiscriminately to see where they were made, and muttering when I saw they were made in China. Every single toy. I finally gave up. There was nothing even close to what I wanted. On my way out of the store, I picked up some pink Legos. They were made in Holland, Guam, Portugal, and Antarctica and Mars. It’s like they were trying to throw me off the scent. Nice try, Legos.

So, in case you’re counting, that would be almost 3 hours already sunk into this project and nothing to show for it. But I wasn’t going to let it beat me. I said a little prayer and asked God to show me some cool things for this little girl.

Two more hours on Amazon. If the place of origin wasn’t listed, then I researched the company and looked for a social responsibility statement. (Although, ahem, Wal-Mart has a “social responsibility” statement that says that the business of Wal-Mart has always been to help people live better, which is complete and utter nonsense, so…I need to do more research into social responsibility statements. They might be stupid.) . I looked at blogs for ideas (including this one which has a pretty extensive list of non-China companies and is more focused on the safety issues with Chinese goods (than the fair labor part)). I found some cool craft kits, but they got bad reviews. I didn’t want to buy her something stupid just because it was made in America.

FINALLY, (are you ready for this?) I came up with a pretty awesome gift.  The base of the gift is an Illustory kit, where you write and illustrate your own book, send it in, and they produce it for you.

I know what you’re thinking. WHERE ARE THE PRINCESSES? Oh, we’ve got princesses in the French made Princess stickers and the How-To-Draw-Princesses Book that was made right here in the good ole’ US of A. I almost leapt with joy when I found the drawing book. That’s just fun.

Boom. Little 8-year-old who loves princesses can write her own story, or if she doesn’t like to write, can do a graphic novel of princesses.

Things that I learned from this project:

– Buying toys is going to be hard to do, as most of them are made overseas. I did find some really interesting websites though that offer fair trade toys that aren’t lincoln logs or rag dolls without faces. However, if my kid wants Barbies, I might run into problems. Good thing I have 1980s Barbies along with a super awesome RV that my parents kept in storage for 15 years.

-Even though I sunk 5 hours into purchasing this gift, I feel good about it because it’s more thoughtful than just dumping whatever princess Barbie happened to catch my attention on display at Toys’R’Us. I feel good about this gift. It’s meaningful, both for me and hopefully for her.

– Shopping may or may not become a full time job for me, and not in the traditional sense. I spent two hours today looking for a picture frame for a gift for a co-worker. It definitely makes you think twice about really needing something or not.

-I’ve decided that I need to learn more about manufacturing in China. I want to read books and watch documentaries…oh, and talk to 40+ of my closest Chinese friends who just happen to come to my house every two weeks. They’ve lived there! They should know! Maybe we’ll have a dinner night where we can discuss Chinese manufacturing.

My next challenge? I need to buy some lightbulbs.  Wish me luck!

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