The Common Good
May 2007

What Can I Do?

by Laurel Rae Mathewson | May 2007

1) As a citizen:

Join the trade justice movement

Go to the "get involved" or "take action" links on the following Web sites:

1) As a citizen:
Join the trade justice movement
Go to the "get involved" or "take action" links on the following Web sites:

Bring trade justice issues to church
Share and discuss faith-based resources, incorporate trade justice issues into worship services, and move your congregation to action both inside and outside the church walls.

2) As a consumer:
Practice buying conscientiously
Ethical shopping alone is not a "magic bullet." We still need to think about our level of consumption, period. The New Internationalist suggests asking these questions before making a new purchase:

    1) Do I really need it? Or can I do without? If I really need it, then …

2) Can I avoid buying a new one? Can I borrow, share, swap, grow, make, or find it secondhand? If I really need to buy a new one…

3) Can I find one that doesn't damage people or the planet? Or can I at least try to minimize my impact? After I've bought a well-made product…

4) How can I look after it to make sure it lasts as long as possible? What maintenance should I do, and how can I mend it if it breaks?

Buy from retailers who support trade justice
There are many retailers worthy of support. Keep your eyes open for them, support them, and spread the news! Here are some places to start (but don't forget your local and independent retailers).

Note: The Ethical Consumer Research Association's Web site at provides user-friendly "ethical scores" for more than 50,000 companies.

3) To learn more:
Inform yourself and others about trade justice issues

  • Fair Trade Resource Network
  • The Conscious Consumer: Promoting Economic Justice Through Fair Trade, by Rose Benz Ericson, is a frequently updated manual that gives an overview of the North American Fair Trade movement. Available for $3 on the FTRN Web site.


  • A Cafecito Story, by Julia Alvarez
  • Fair Trade for All: How Trade Can Promote Development, by Joseph E. Stiglitz and Andrew Charlton
  • The Field Guide to the Global Economy, by Sarah Anderson, John Cavanagh, and Thea Lee
  • The New Globalization: Reclaiming the Lost Ground of our Christian Social Tradition, by Richard W. Gillett


  • Black Gold follows coffee cooperative manager Tadesse Meskela as he travels the world seeking a fair price to help him save 74,000 struggling Ethiopian farmers from bankruptcy.
  • Life and Debt artistically and comprehensively depicts the effects of World Bank and IMF debt, globalization, and multinational corporations on the people of Jamaica.
  • Global Exchange's online "bookstore" also has great film choices.

Laurel R. Mathewson was a Sojourners editorial intern when this article appeared.

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