Take the Handmade Pledge!

With the holiday season and the New Year right around the corner, I think it's a great time to look into the Handmade Pledge - buy only handmade goods for yourself and as gifts, while encouraging others to do the same.

I actually gave myself a similar challenge around this time last year (though in all honesty, I copied from my friend Sarah, who had the idea and has stuck to her handmade pledge for over one year). I vowed to buy only handmade or secondhand items, or to make things by hand. Though I have had a few lapses, for the most part I adhered to my challenge. Christmas gifts and cards were mostly handmade. "New" clothes were only new to me, as they were purchased from secondhand stores. I saved money, challenged myself creatively, and learned new skills I may never have thought to otherwise learn.

Beyond these immediate personal benefits, however, you're also doing good for human rights and the environment. In helping to reduce the purchase of clothing made in sweatshops, you are making a statement to hopefully reduce the occurrence of sweatshop labor. In reducing new production, fewer materials are being wasted (ie. packaging), fewer environmental damages are occurring to transport goods, and fewer new items are being put on the market when perfectly good used ones exist.

It's a bit daunting at first, but in my opinion totally doable to not purchase a single new Christmas gift. Making things by hand is always a great option, whether that means knitting someone a sweater or giving them a homemade candle. Preparing easy-to-freeze meals, jams, cookies, and candy are all great ways to give someone a gift without worrying that it will end up in the trash in a few months or never be enjoyed. Secondhand stores are great places to seek out clothes and jewelry that can be further personalized (maybe with a little screen-printing detail or embroidery) or gifted as you found them. Used DVDs and CDs can also make great presents. Rather than spending $20 on one brand new DVD, spend a fraction of the cost on an assortment of perfectly good, used DVDs. Gift cards to local restaurants are a great way to support local business and ensure your loved ones are eating well.

Making a vow to avoid the mall forces you to think creatively and, in the process, often get more personalized and memorable gifts for everyone one your list. The possibilities are endless once you start to think about what people really love (not just what they would buy for themselves if they had some extra income) and how to give it to them during the holidays.

And even if you don't think you're up to the challenge for all of your holiday shopping, trying to buy handmade for yourself is a great resolution to make for the New Year.

To learn more about how you can help to fight sweatshop labor and unfair working conditions by making smart purchases, visit Behind the Label, Green America, and the AFL-CIO's Corporate Watch.

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