Cheryl Mrazik

Every Action Matters

Ethical Trade Stories - Cheryl M.

What is that one action you can take today as the next step on your journey to living your faith as an ethical consumer?

I never drank coffee until I started my first full-time job. And, believe it or not, the caffeine actually wasn’t what got me hooked. I worked at a small non-profit where morning coffee meant fellowship with colleagues. Because that organization had made a commitment to fair trade coffee, it also meant fellowship in a larger sense with those who had produced that coffee we so enjoyed.

Dignity of Work

It was at the same job that I was first really introduced to Catholic Social Teaching, and its roots in dignity of work. There are many ways to grapple with the principle of dignified labor. For me, purchasing fairly traded, ethically-produced products when and where I could is one tangible and accessible step to living CST.

As I learned more about CST and ethical trade, I’ll admit that I began to feel overwhelmed by what a true embrace of it meant for how I live my life. I felt paralyzed by the vastness of what being an ethical consumer meant. I was worried about how radically it called me to change. How could I ever possibly do all that?

If you’re human, you’ve probably felt overwhelmed at some point in your life. The only way, at least that I’ve found, to overcome that feeling is incremental action. And the same has been true in my journey as an ethical consumer. I certainly don’t have it all figured out; but making modest commitments, and challenging myself to periodically add new ones, has enabled me to move past feeling overwhelmed and to take small, meaningful steps toward positive change.

We incorporated our ethical values into our wedding day.

I recently got married. My husband and I had several conversations throughout the planning process about how we could incorporate our values, especially as ethical consumers, into our wedding day. We were glad to find many avenues (including even fair trade wedding dresses!) to doing so. For example, we chose antique and recycled wedding jewelry and registered with fair trade vendor Serrv. We were pleasantly surprised at how many of our guests were drawn to that registry and appreciated the opportunity to support fair trade.

Commitment

What else can a commitment to ethical consumerism look like? There are so many different ways to be a supporter! Commitment can include: support of co-ops, local businesses, B corporations, or union-made items. One could exclusively purchase fairly traded coffee and tea. Or it could be occasionally buying fair trade gifts for others as a way to introduce them to ethical consumerism. Commitment can also be as fun and unique as incorporating family heirlooms or thrift store furniture into your home instead of purchasing new products. It could be as unglamorous as spending the extra time to clean out that glass jar at the end of a long day so you can recycle it. And last, it could be as routine as using reusable shopping bags.

At the heart of ethical trade is the belief that every action matters. What is that one action you can take with me today as the next step on your journey to living your faith as an ethical consumer?

Cheryl is a CRS staff member.