Beginning this week with Black Friday, shoppers will start scouring stores and online in search of the perfect holiday gifts. But this season, it's easier than ever to find a present that's not only trendy but also gives back.
Those of us concerned with the real impacts of global consumer culture are stuck in the territory between cynicism and tokenism, trying to think more productively about the kinds of strategies that can make a symbolic and material difference.
Bangladesh's flourishing but unregulated garment industry raises an ethical issue: how does our buy-and-throw-away consumer culture contribute to inhumanly low wages, death-risking working conditions and destructive environmental practices?
Our fervent interests in how big of a flat screen we can buy seems to remain an undying American tradition. But when it comes to the products that we hunt for, our better judgment about whether they are made unethically or not tends to be overlooked.
Everyone points to Newman's Own as proof that "cause products" such as Project 7 gum can be a big success. But that's like believing your organization can have its own national telethon because Jerry Lewis had one.