This article was published in the December 2020 issue of our parish magazine. Here it is again:
It’s that time of year. We are bombarded with advertisements on every side to help us choose our Christmas presents. Younger members of the family (and some older ones, too) will have asked you to post their letter to Santa, being careful not to seal it, just in case you might like to read it yourself! In these days of trying to stay at home as much as possible, and uncertainty about whether we shall see people to give them gifs in person, internet shopping is a more attractive option than ever.
Shopping is never a neutral activity. We may be enabling small businesses to keep going or exploiting poorly paid workers. Is the planet being abused in the manufacture or transportation of the item? Ideally when we buy something it would be produced locally, at a price that is fair to both the purchaser and everyone involved in the product. There would be no exploitation of people, animals or planet. But it’s not that simple. In those far off days when we could have coffee after church, we promoted Traidcraft goods which sought to give fair employment to people overseas. Although buying locally saves transportation, if we do not trade with the poorest people in the world they will starve. After centuries of exploitation they often no longer grow the food they need for themselves and their neighbours but live by exporting the fruits of their labour. Complicated isn’t it?
Our local high streets are struggling because they cannot compete with internet shopping, and it is a great pity when businesses are forced to close. It’s good to buy your books in real bookshops, not online and to support your local gift shop. The large internet retailers pay little in the way of taxes, and do not always treat their workers fairly. And yet there are few people who never use the internet for shopping. If you don’t drive, or if you want specialty products, there is little choice, and I find myself buying on Amazon and other internet outlets much more often than I would like. To make the best of it I do at least raise some money for the church. I have signed up to Easyfundraising. Every time I shop on Amazon or many other websites (not generally groceries) a percentage of what I spend is donated to St Margaret’s. It is a very small percentage. It doesn’t make my shopping ethical. But all those small amounts add up, and if you join me, between us it will make a significant contribution.
Give your Christmas shopping some thought. Do I need to buy it? Can I source it ethically? (JeaniusBags, for example). Could I buy it second hand (great for toys). And lastly, when you have decided where to buy, does the website you have chosen offer to donate to the church via Easyfundraising at no extra cost to you?
We live in a complex world and few decisions are simple and all have consequence. Let’s do the best we can.
Here’s the link that takes you directly to the St Margaret’s Easyfundraising page.