Posted on 6. October 2011

The story behind the barcode

As long as I can remember I have been a bargain shopper.  My mom taught me to shop for bathing suits in the September and winter coats in May.  I have never been a stranger to the clearance racks or couponing.

But here I am in turmoil over my purchases.  I am realizing there is so much more to consider than just a good deal. 


I just read the Social justice handbook.  It was an amazing eye opening book encouraging action over apathy.  A quote:

Everyday we are confronted by challenging societal problems, from poverty and institutional racism to AIDS and homelessness.  It can all seem so overwhelming.  But while none of us can do everything, all of us can do something. 

Social justice is a huge issue.  One I only wish to be able to entirely explain, but for starters, let’s talk about shopping:

If I were to ask you if you wanted to support a company that had slave labor you would, of course, say no.  But unfortunately every time we make a purchase we “vote” for what we think are acceptable company practices. 

Practices like exposure to toxic chemicals, low to no wages (slave labor), sexual harassment and child labor.  The International Labor Organization estimates that seventy percent of working children are in agriculture – over 132 million girls and boys aged 5-14 years old. Source

It is certainly easier to turn a blind eye to it but if Christians a.k.a. the hands and feet of Jesus don’t do something about it than who will?

But don’t worry, I’m not trying to ruin all your shopping fun.  There is good news and easy ways to examine your purchases before you buy:


Free2Work is a really cool company that grades companies on a scale of “A” to “F” based on supply chain transparency, code of conduct, response to child and forced labor, and overall efforts to empower workers. Plus they have a free ap that lets you easily search for companies making your “research” a snap! 

Good Guide is a similar company only the also grade the company on it’s health and environmental impact.  They have a free ap that lets you scan the barcode!

Had I been a little wiser the last time i bought tennis shoes I would not have bought Sketchers, who have a grade F, and would have looked at maybe some Adidas, or Nikes who have a grade A (Nike’s have come a long way!  Go Nike!).

Buy Second Hand

I’m a big fan of second hand shopping. Yard sales, thrift stores, and hand me downs are all fabulous ways to “shop".

When you buy something second hand the damage from the store (and factory) has already been made.  Second hand shopping means you are supporting a local family yard sale, a church fund raiser, or a charity like goodwill or salvation army.  Plus who doesn’t get excited about a super cute pair of jeans for $1! 


Just because we don’t see what our dollars are supporting doesn’t make it any less real. I believe company greed and slave labor is something that breaks God’s heart.  Let us LIVE the gospel with our dollars and “vote” yes to companies that are practicing good ethics. 

Share your thoughts on all this! Anyone have any tips on how you shop ethical? 

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