Only in Lawrence could there be Christmas shopping for the politically conscious.

Paying Fair 

Only in Lawrence could there be Christmas shopping for the politically conscious.

Most people who hit the malls to negotiate the rabid Christmas-shopping masses this weekend will be looking for the usual no-fail presents: gift cards, neckties, smoked cheese logs. But the organizers of one holiday bazaar recommend that we shop for more exotic fare. Like a toilet. Or a llama.

Rather than going to the naughty boys and girls on our list, that $50 toilet would go into a house built by the University of Kansas and Lawrence chapters of Habitat for Humanity for a family on the east side of notoriously high-rent Lawrence. As for the expectorating camelid ($150 or any amount toward the purchase of one), Heifer International will send it to a family in Latin America who needs the four-legged Land Rover for its village-to-market commute and as a source of wool. And because we'll make these donations on behalf of the loved ones on our gift list, we'll get a card to put under the tree that's guaranteed to make 'em gush.

The Fair Trade Holiday Market at the University of Kansas is an altruist's winter wonderland. The mission of the Fair Trade network, and thus another goal of the Larrytown bazaar, is to sell low-income producers' merchandise directly to consumers in an equitable way that protects against exploitation of the producers (such as sweatshop workers for Nike and Kathie Lee Gifford).

In this vein, the market offers unique local and international crafts, such as wool scarves and throws straight from the backs of sheep at Pinwheel Farm in Lawrence and colorful curios imported from Nicaragua by Esperanza En Accion, at prices both fair to the artisans and more than fair to us -- $10-$15 for a hand-woven pine-needle basket, $8-$10 for an exquisitely painted piece of hard-shell fruit.

The market's organizer, Thad Holcombe, campus minister at the Ecumenical Christian Ministries, says this kind of shopping is a way to fight for social justice. "We can blame the government, we can blame corporations, but ultimately it comes down to the consumer," Holcombe says.

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