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Shop responsibly as you decorate your home

We are all familiar with the term ‘buy local’ and I’m sure that most of us support that philosophy when we are purchasing items for our home.

I have been of the mindset that if I am working to buy from locally owned proprietors and business owners that I have done my part to sustain the local economy but last week I was challenged to look at my spending on a deeper level.

I am bargain-driven, I revel in a good deal or sale price and consider it a victory to obtain the products I love either on sale or even on consignment.

There has been a challenge laid down for me (and you) to look beyond the shop front and the cheapest price and to discover where and how your product was made. The demand for inexpensive items has driven human trafficking into mind-blowing numbers and I for one am encouraged to spend my money on products which support fair trade and fair labour practices.

The easiest way to make sure your dollars are being spent on ethically and globally responsible products are to buy Canadian or North American made.

North America, in most cases, has higher standards for Occupational Health/Safety and of course enforced labour laws. When a product is sold at a drastically reduced price someone along the way has paid a price for that. When a manufacturer is forced to cut costs due to consumer demand they usually cut the labour force first as material costs generally cannot fluctuate – this results in workers receiving less than fair wages and substandard working conditions.

An example of this would be the comparison of buying hardwood, I have had clients challenge why the product I sell is $9/sq. ft. when they can purchase a seemingly identical product for $5/sq ft.

Consider this, a hardwood is grown and manufactured in Canada will be subject to reforestation laws, environmental restrictions during production, health and safety regulations, wage minimums and law enforced working conditions.

A hardwood produced in a country that does not have labour or environmental laws can be manufactured at a dear price including illegal child slavery, products which are produced with no safety standards and irresponsibility in harvesting wood.

Visit www.betterworldshopper.org for information on your favorite products and stores.

When looking for products for your home, research not only the company history of where you are buying but what you are buying to ensure you are making an informed choice. Does the manufacturer or business support local charities, are they environmentally responsible and are they creating Canadian jobs with their products?

Are they actively involved in the community where they do business and are they giving their employees a fair opportunity to make a decent living? These questions are vital if sustainability and global consciousness are a part of your shopping goals.

‘House proud’ is a term we all use for a well finished, completely cared for home but I think it can go deeper than that. Be proud of items you have purchased knowing you have contributed to the lives of others as they struggle to make a way for themselves in this world.

Kim Lewis is an interior designer in Red Deer with Carpet Colour Centre. Contact her at 403-343-7711 ext 227 or email her at klewis@carpetcolourcentre.com.

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