Carla Ortiz

Shopping For Justice

Ethical Trade Stories: Carla O.

I’m not big on spending but shopping ethically has changed my lifestyle because buying my favorite items: dresses, jewelry and baskets makes a difference in the lives of the people who make them!

Why do I know this? I’ve had the honor of meeting basket weavers in Ghana and coffee farmers in Nicaragua. When I met them, they told me about their new and vibrant opportunities. They told me how selling their products through ethical trade businesses has empowered them because they are paid fairly and treated with dignity and respect.

Unfortunately, there is a lack of respect for workers among some businesses that solely focus on profits over people. My awareness began in middle school when I learned that one of my favorite companies used sweatshops and child labor to make their products. I was horrified and choose to boycott them.

I didn’t have access to information about ethical businesses back then or even my own money to spend, but I do now! Catholic Relief Services’ ethical shopping guide has made it easy for me to support ethical businesses that I can trust. That’s important because I don’t always have time to investigate on my own.

Brands I Can Get Behind

Recently, I’ve discovered ethical fashion brands like Mata Traders. Their tagline is “fashion a better world.” I love buying their dresses and jewelry handmade by women artisans in India and Nepal. When I wear their clothing and accessories, I feel like I’m dressing to not only express my style, but my values for economic justice and intentional support of women and their creativity.

An interesting fact is that Mata means mother in Hindi. Most of the ethical trade producers I’ve met are women who are mothers. These women want the same things that working mothers in the United States do—to feel supported in the workplace and to be able to provide a brighter future for their children.

On a funny note, I’m pregnant with my first child and am experiencing serious cravings for CHOCOLATE!!! While milk chocolate is my favorite, dark chocolate is healthier. Because of that  I’m delighted to eat fair trade dark chocolate minis from Equal Exchange and Divine Dark Chocolate with no regrets.

Grounded in Faith

I have the same no regret attitude about my overall support of ethical trade. One thing that I didn’t anticipate when I first started supporting ethical trade was the push back from some skeptics. As a person of faith, I realize that even Jesus experienced rejection for his beliefs and messages. I’ve learned that justice work is not about proving that you’re right. Instead justice is about doing what is right and inviting others to reflect and act on establishing right-relationship with their brothers and sisters.

When I feel challenged, I remember that a chocolate farmer once said that ethical trade is about “shopping with respect.” That’s why I support through my purchases and my advocacy.

Carla is a CRS staff member based in San Antonio, Texas. She now has a beautiful, healthy baby girl.