How To Conquer Black Friday This Year

How To Conquer Black Friday Like An Absolute Boss

Credit card? Check. Shopping list? Check. War paint? Check.

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Let me start out by saying I love Thanksgiving Day. I'm a huge fan of shameless eating plates of food and being with family and then passing out in a food coma afterward. The passing out part is crucial because I have to regain my strength and energy for the real show: Black Friday.

As an outed shopaholic, I thrive on Black Friday. Sure, Cyber Monday is great and online shopping is more convenient, blah, blah, blah. Call me old school but there's nothing like the thrill of waking up at the butt crack of dawn and running around a Christmas decorated mall while "Christmas/Sarajevo 12/24 (Instrumental)" by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra blares over the mall speakers as you're trying to get the best deals on sweaters and underwear. Malls during Black Friday are practically war zones so allow me, a seasoned soldier, to share a play by play of how to conquer and win the biggest shopping day of the year…

5:00 a.m. — Wake up

Yeah, you heard me. Rise and shine, sugarplum it is time to greet Black Friday and get your rear in gear! No time to shower, you're already behind schedule. Throw on a hoodie and your Uggs and grab a breakfast bar and shotgun a black coffee (to match the spirit of the day) on the way out. (If you're really experienced, you'll make overnight oats to bring with you on the car ride to the stores.) Make sure you have your purse, both your credit and your debit card, extra cash (you never know what'll decline), an inhaler, and any coupons/Groupons/discount codes you may have.

5:30 a.m. — Arrive at first destination

Park in the first parking spot you can get to and book it into the mall. It's go time, soldier.

**PRO-TIP: If you're smart, you'll print out a map of the mall and prioritize what stores you go to first. It helps to make a shopping list if you're doing your holiday shopping early. I ~guess~ it's helpful to budget yourself for today but just remember Black Friday comes only once a year so go ahead and treat yo'self!

5:40 a.m. to 6 a.m. — Store number one

Give yourself 15-20 minutes MAX at each store. Otherwise, you'll never get anything done.

**PRO-TIP Part 2: If you see a sweater at Forever 21 that you like DON'T BUY IT YET. Go to American Eagle and see if there isn't a cuter, cheaper sweater that you can cop. Put all items on hold and make a list of what stores are holding what items. At the end of the spree, go back to each store and make the final purchases so you don't end up buying eight grey sweaters that you just happen to like.

6:03-6:05 a.m. — Snap a pic of Santa in Santa's Corner

You don't have to be in it. Do it for the snap, ya feel?

Repeat until 8 a.m.

Make final purchases! Most malls will wrap your gifts for free so get it done early so you don't have to!

8:30 a.m. — Brunch Time!!

You officially conquered Black Friday so go reward yourself at a cute little brunch place. Good job, soldier.

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5 Companies That Still Use Slave Labor

Let's talk about the modern slave trade.
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Growing up in a country where freedom is always a right and expectation — whether you live in the United States or one of the other 86 "free" countries — it is easy to believe that, compared to the well-known 1800s slave trade, we are doing pretty well when it comes to civil liberties, freedom, and overall social welfare. Documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) have been approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations, meaning that the vast majority of nations have agreed that every individual has the right to basic human dignity.

Despite this significant progress, however, there are 45.8 million people enslaved today, more than any other time in world history. The United States Department of Homeland Security has launched the Blue Campaign in light of this growing industry, hoping to raise awareness of the human trafficking that persists in local communities. Additionally, you can watch this video for a summary on the Global Slavery pandemic. I will write about the problem of human trafficking in the United States on another day; however, global slavery affects us whether it is in our city or halfway around the world. In fact, companies that you purchase from every single day use slave labor for their work instead of paying employees a fair wage.* Don't believe me?

Here are five companies that are using slave labor to make their products TODAY, and where you should shop instead.

Nestle

Nestle is one of the largest companies that has consistently carried out human rights violations all over the world. Not only did they illegally take water from California during the drought in 2015, but in the 1970s they got third-world mothers to use infant formula by selling it at reduced prices, and then when the mothers could no longer breastfeed, they raised the price of formula so much that many children were malnourished and starving.

Their most recent problems revolve around slavery in the cocoa industry. In 2009 several former child slaves sued Nestle because they were trafficked and forced to work on Nestle farms in Cote d'Ivoire. Another suit was filed by former child slaves in 2014, stating that "Studies by International Labour Organization, UNICEF, the Department of State, and numerous other organizations have confirmed that thousands of children are forced to work without pay in the Ivorian economy." In 2016, the Fair Labor Association executed an assessment of Nestle in Cote d'Ivoire. They claimed that 70% of Nestle farms were not trained on the prohibition of forced labor. Further, they stated that "there is no process in place to monitor, report, and remediate cases of forced labor at the farms." With this in mind, they did find evidence of potential forced and uncompensated labor. Additionally, they found evidence of child labor—many of these children never enrolling in school — in which children were getting paid little to nothing, and often working in dangerous conditions.

INSTEAD: buy from Ben & Jerry's or Theo. They will satisfy your sweet tooth and are Fair-Trade guaranteed.

Nike

Nike has REALLY cleaned up their act in the last several years, but with a standard of no slave labor, they still have quite a way to go. In 1992, activist Jeff Ballinger published an exposé in "Harpers" that revealed the story of a child in Indonesia working in disgusting conditions, and for a mere 14 cents per hour (far below the minimum wage in Indonesia at the time).

Since then, Nike has begun to report supply chain information. The most recent report claims that, in 2016, only 86% of their factories were up to the minimum standards they set. Though they give a good indication of how far the company has come, these standards are set by Nike and assessed internally, making it difficult to compare standards to a universal one.

INSTEAD: shop at Patagonia! All products here are Fair Trade Certified!

Starbucks

Starbucks claims a mission for ethical sourcing, meaning their company policy requires them to abide by a standard of "ethical sourcing" that they have created. They only have two Fair-Trade coffees available for purchase. After the development charity Oxfam reported that Starbucks was depriving Ethiopian coffee growers of $90 million every year, Starbucks was challenged by the public eye to “clean up their act,” and did so by creating their own “ethical sourcing” standards, that they implement themselves, and certify 99% of their coffee with. Whether or not these standards are viable, they are not Fair Trade Certified at this time.

The U.S. Department of Labor has a list of locations and goods that use forced and child labor. Starbucks lists coffees from countries such as Guatamala, Kenya, Costa Rica and Panama; however, none of these single-sourced coffees are certified by them as “Fair Trade.” Rather, they are all regions that are known to use child labor.

INSTEAD: buy the Starbucks Italian Roast and Café Estima; they are certified by Fair Trade! You can also order online from Café Justo, Jurang and Equal Exchange —entire companies dedicated to producing Fair Trade coffee.

H&M

A 2016 report stated that as of December 31, 2015, 31 out of 72 H&M suppliers were using illegal contracts. In other words, these contracts allowed for wrongful termination. Now I know what you are thinking: the current system of hiring/firing in the U.S. is full of problems, and it takes way too much work to fire a bad employee in most cases. Well, the situation in countries like Cambodia and India are a little different. Often times, employees of H&M will be forced to work for excessive overtime hours—far beyond the legal limit—with no increase in their weekly take home pay. They are also often working in sweatshop conditions, with no breaks and unsanitary environments. Moreover, the contracts allow the factory to fire a worker for refusing to work these long hours. In fact, a garment worker in Cambodia stated: "We often get sick around once a month. We don’t eat enough and work too much trying to maximize the piece rate. Also, we don’t stop to go to the bathroom. We often work through lunch breaks or go back into work early, so there is hardly any time to rest."

INSTEAD: shop at one of these other retailers that are guaranteed to have fair-trade labor!

Walmart

Well, this one is probably the least suprising yet. According to a 2016 report by the Wage Alliance on Walmart's value chain, Walmart refused to sign the 2013 Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh that 200 companies signed following the collapse of Rana Plaza. It also stated that all 14 factories in Cambodia were studied, and they all violated local overtime laws consistently, with some forcing 14 hour work days without overtime pay "in sweltering heat, without adequate supply of clean drinking water or any breaks." These same conditions were expressed by workers in factories in India, Indonesia, and Bangladesh. The report continued to list countless instances of workers given severely less than they were promised, or even cases where owners of factories fled without paying workers at all.

INSTEAD: OK, I know it's hard to pass up Walmart prices. However, here is a full list of companies that are fair trade. Even if you start small, I know you can find a way to cut back on your slavery footprint! Want to know how many slaves work for you now? Visit the Slavery Footprint mission to find out.

*I use the term “fair wage” because many people who are enslaved are trapped in a cycle of debt bondage. This means that an individual or family works for pennies per hour to pay off an ever-increasing debt. Oftentimes this debt is passed down for generations. To learn more about debt bondage and other forms of slavery, visit the non-profit End Slavery Now, here.

Cover Image Credit: iragelb / Flickr

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7 Completely Cliché Christmas Gifts College Girls Will Absolutely Love

Trust me, I'm a college student.

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Christmas shopping can be hard and sometimes more stressful than it needs to be. Here are some great ideas for any college student that you wouldn't think they would like, but they would actually love.

1. Office/School Supplies 

I know, it doesn't seem like much, but you can never have too many pens, pencils, notebooks, etc.. PLUS, it's a super cheap and easy gift to give.

2. Gift Cards 

We're college students and we're broke. ANY KIND of gift card is a fantastic idea.

3. Snacks 

College is expensive and everyone loves snacks.

Popcorn, cup of noodles, potato chips, the list goes on and on and on.

4. Fuzzy Socks, Gloves, and Toboggans 

Colleges very rarely cancel classes. It could be a blizzard and you're expected to be there, which makes fuzzy socks, warm gloves, and cozy toboggans a great stocking stuffer.

5. Headphones/Earbuds 

I don't care who you are, this is one of the most lost items you could ever own.

6. Coffees, Teas, Cappuccinos 

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College is filled with sleepless nights, which means any sort of hot beverage becomes your best friend.

7. Blankets 

You can never have too many blankets. I don't care who you are.

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