Every consumer decision can be your vote for freedom — or your support of slavery.
RosaLia Stadler takes her choices seriously. A junior political science and human rights major, she has researched slavery used in creating consumer products.
The International Labor Organization reports that 20.9 million workers are coerced and trapped in jobs worldwide. They could be picking your coffee, sewing your clothes or packaging your produce. Lies and intimidation could be keeping them in low-paying jobs or unsafe conditions. In other cases, it’s barbed wire and shackles.
Stadler is researching whether consumers are willing to pay more for slave-free products. She’s also changing her consumer habits to make the best shopping choices possible. Here are her tips.
1. Educate yourself. For Stadler, it began in high school when her father had her watch the movie Taken. “This really happens?” she asked about the plot: kidnappers abducting girls for the sex trade. The answer is yes, even in Ohio. She recommends the Polaris Project for issue and advocacy information and Abolition Ohio, a UD-started organization created to stir society’s conscience about all forms of slavery.
2. Look for the green label. Fair Trade USA certifies products to help you choose those made by companies supporting sustainable livelihoods for workers and the environment. Stadler purchases only fair-trade coffee. Grocery shopping does take longer when you’re on the hunt. “You have to look for the green label,” she says. “It’s not on every box of cereal or vegetable.”
3. Google it. When training for a half-marathon, Stadler knew she needed better choices for her running shoes. So she Googled “ethically made tennis shoes.” Her research led her to choose Mizuno Wave Inspire.
4. Think local. It’s hard to know the worker history of clothing you pull off the rack. Unless the manufacturer specifically labels its products, it is best to fall back on what you know. “I try to buy made-in-America clothes, and I thrift shop a lot,” she says. She also buys local produce.
5. Shop at a fair trade store. Stadler has one in her hometown of Akron, Ohio. There, she buys gifts — which also help educate the recipient. “I wear three bracelets to remind me of what I’m so passionate about,” she says. “One made in Nepal supports women’s education; a second was a gift and equals a month’s worth of water in Ethiopia; and the third I bought in Dayton to support the Polaris Project.”