Traidcraft; how to shop ethically AND get good value for money

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As the New Year sales continue, here’s my late Christmas tip on how to get great products for a reasonable price

Iona Bain

Happy 2013 blog readers! I wanted to kick the New Year off with some reflections on shopping, given how light our wallets will be feeling after the pricey festive period.

Last year, I wrote about how young people should aim for an economical and ethical Christmas. It is one of those months that can turn into a nightmare for anyone who’s still at college, starting their first job or searching for their first break in the world of work.

The cost of rail fares and fuel to see loved ones ain’t nothing. The pressure to embark on expensive nights-out, particularly around the New Year, is ferocious. Don’t forget, everyone on Facebook is at pains to point out what a fabulous time they’re having! (Me thinks they doth pose too much…)

So it can really push you over the edge if you subscribe to the notion that all your presents must be high-end; that usually means high-cost. However, it is entirely possible to treat your loved ones to thoughtful gifts while not forgetting the true essence of this time. Whatever your faith (or even if you have none), Christmas should be a time to focus on the personal, not the materialistic. This sentiment is really starting to catch on with the younger generations, and should hopefully last well beyond the end of the sherry and brandy bottles you only seem to drink on December 25th with your nana.

With that in mind, I wanted to share a shopping tip that I stumbled across before Christmas. Back in my hometown of Edinburgh, I was searching for a last minute shopping destination that would turn up some presents for my parents. They are supremely hard to buy for, particularly my mum, who insists I don’t buy her ANYTHING that isn’t in her comfort zone and won’t get used.

But even she couldn’t argue with my solution – small yet useful gifts that all give a decent cut to farmers, craftsman and associated charities in the third world. After the usual jaunt down Princes Street, Edinburgh’s shopping Mecca, I passed St Johns Church and remembered the “One World” shop attached to it. It was a life-saver. I bought an autobiography of an African charity entrepreneur, a big tin of camomile tea, a calendar and a special pack of spices for a “hot toddy”, all for just under £20. There’s the added value of knowing the present will support communities in Africa, giving your recipient an extra feel-good factor, but also that the presents are unique and made with care. The shop I was in sold everything, from beautiful jewellery and bags to yummy food and drink.

Fair trade products are a fantastic way to stay in touch with your conscience, whatever time of year it is, without siphoning off great sums to charities which may not be entirely accountable about how they spend your dosh.

The Fairtrade movement has long attracted support from do-gooders, but it can be difficult to track down ethical products that are reasonably priced (and appealing) if you’re in the ‘young and broke’ category. But the Fairtrade enterprise should be everyone’s one-stop shop for lovely gifts – as well as treats for yourself.

The name to look out for is Traidcraft. They have shops all over the country, from Hull to Newcastle. The One World Shop is a Scottish off-shoot, and it’s well worth visiting the Edinburgh or the Glasgow branches if you’re north of the border (see the links below). For those in England, you can use the Traidcraft website to find your nearest shop (again, check out the link below). These shops will often be attached to your local churches, which is why they are easy to miss when you’re out shopping. It’s well worth making a detour! Alternatively, you can buy online or request a catalogue – the site has a big New Year sale on right now.



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