So who made that sweater you bought dad for Christmas?

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It’s a beautiful scene, isn’t it? Maybe for most, but for me personally, looking out my window and seeing a fresh blanket of snow does not make me think joyful and serene thoughts of the winter season. Instead I imagine opening my front door to step into a life-size freezer that stings my skin and drys my contacts to my eyeballs. I usually stand at my window and try to enjoy the white landscape from the comforts of my heated apartment until the chilling, drafty air seeps through the window to get me.

My distaste for winter had me knitting thick scarves for friends and family as Christmas gifts, motivated by the strange personal responsibility I feel to protect my loved ones’ well-being from the harsh elements. But as usual, time ran short and more of my yarn was still in a ball, not knitted in rows. I’ve turned to the web to supplement the goods I couldn’t produce myself, but with the great disadvantage of specifically looking for items made under fair working conditions.

Earlier this week I got a thorough update on sweatshops on this NPR program. An independent factory inspector and other industry experts laid out the various components of the industry including cheaper, more loosely regulated overseas labor, market transparency and socially responsible alternatives. I then found a couple especially worthy resources to share with you.

If you aspire to be an armed consumer at all times, consider the back-pocket-sized “The Better World Shopping Guide” for yourself or as a gift. The comprehensive buyer’s companion is a directory that ranks companies based on their commitment to social and environmentally conscious business practices.

Too busy to look up a company’s ranking? Go straight to a retailer that professes fair practices in its name, “No Sweat.” Yoga pants, hoodies, jeans, screen printed shirts and yes, scarves are available at very reasonable prices. If you have to venture out into that gigantic outdoor freezer, at least you can say your body heat is being guarded by garments produced under humane and fair working conditions.


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