Category Archives: Shop Green

Fair Trade 101

 

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So my readers gave me a great idea after my last post.

While I was rambling on my soapbox about how sustainable fair trade chocolate is, they wanted to know more about fair trade itself. To be honest, I didn’t know many details when it came to fair trade. Buying fair trade was just something nice I thought I was doing, but I didn’t give it much thought beyond that. Now that I know the impact of it, I decided to write a little beginner’s crash course. Let’s begin, shall we?

What is Fair Trade?

The official definition from the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO):

Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade.  It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalizes producers and workers-especially in the South.  Fair Trade Organizations (backed by consumers) are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of international trade.

Fair trade is exactly what it sounds like; it’s the fair exchange of money for goods like coffee, tea, chocolate, jewelry, furniture and art. It’s a global economic model that empowers farmers and producers, especially those working in developing countries, by cutting out needless middlemen and paying providers a fair wage for their goods. The diagram below shows the efficiency and practicality of fair trade versus that of the traditional model:

The Price of Fair Trade

Let’s just admit it, conventional trade is a lot easier on our wallets; using coffee as an example, by comparing a bag of fair trade coffee on Amazon to a canister of coffee at the grocery store you can see a pretty big difference in price, and it’s coffee- a product many people consume on a daily basis. Twelve ounces of coffee doesn’t last long. My reader hayden44e wrote:

I hate that Fair Trade everything seems to be so expensive, although I can totally understand why. I was always a huge fan of fair trade coffee.

12 ounce bag of Fair Trade coffee: ~ $10 dollars12 ounce canister of conventional trade coffee: ~ $3
12 ounce bag of Fair Trade coffee: ~ $10
12 ounce canister of conventional trade coffee: ~ $3

The price of fair trade goods are often higher than non-certified products because when a consumer purchases fair trade, they are covering the costs of production plus a living wage (enough for food, shelter, education and medical care) for the producer. The good news is that by the laws of supply and demand, the more people who buy fair trade, the lower the price will go.  Tea, chocolate and coffee are relatively lower in cost differences because when fair trade became available, many people were willing to support it and buy these items at fair trade prices.

So if money’s tight but you really want to support fair trade, you can do what I do and buy fair trade goods when it’s convenient financially. It’s better to support fair trade every once in a while than not at all. Plus, fair trade is as much a human rights movement as it is economics, so you can always advocate for it, even when money is tight.

One of my readers, Holly, knows a lot about fair trade also. Her advice on how not to spend too much:

Findlay Market also offers a lot of green options for fair prices if places like Park + Vine are out of your price range. Even Kroger locations have been offering more and more local/green options. It’s so awesome to see the trend taking root in everyday American culture.

What Else?

By supporting and buying fair trade, you’re not only ensuring fair wages for farmers, but you’re improving communities in developing countries. Fair trade cooperatives (the farms where products are grown) often reinvest their revenue into their business and into their local communities. Not only that, but with the purchase of the cooperative’s goods, they receive funding called a social premium. This social premium in turn is used to build the local community. What the social premium is put towards often depends on the needs of the community, but the most common investments are in schools and education, healthcare, environmental projects, gender equity and business development.

Fair trade is also sustainable. In conventional trade, farmers are often forced into practices that destroy the environment. Fair trade however encourages sustainable farming methods like reforestation, water conservation and growing organic. The standards are pretty high too. You can read more about the requirements here. Fun fact: 85 percent of fair trade coffee is grown organically.

So now I know, but where do I go?

Local:

Online:

So now that you know more about the impact, are you more likely to buy fair trade goods? Is there anything you wanted to know that I didn’t cover? Class dismissed.

For more information:

World Fair Trade Organization

Green America

Fair Trade USA

Fair Trade International

Shop Green for Valentine’s Day

green heart

Valentine’s Day is coming up, but you still haven’t bought your significant other’s gift? Don’t despair, there’s still time! Better yet, it’s a great chance to add a little green to a holiday traditionally colored by reds, whites and pinks.

Fair Trade Chocolate

Fair trade is a movement setting the standard for economically fair and sustainable production of goods. Farmers involved in fair trade are encouraged to use the local natural habitat and to avoid using harmful pesticides on their products.

Wanted: For crimes against nature.
Wanted: For crimes against nature.

Chocolate is a wonderful gift for Valentine’s Day, but normal chocolate production is bad for the environment as it destroys rainforests and cacao normally is covered in pesticides. Fortunately for the chocoholic, the movement is growing so organic, fair trade chocolate is becoming more available. It costs more, but it’s definitely greener.

Where to Buy:

Living Flowers

Fresh cut flowers are pretty, but they don’t last very long, and they can get expensive as it gets closer to Valentine’s Day.

Now you’re probably thinking: “What’s the problem with fresh cut flowers? They’re natural and they just decay once they get sent to the landfill.”

Nope.

But they look so innocent.
But they look so innocent.

Jennifer Grayson explains it really well in this Huffington Post article. It basically comes down to the same problem fair trade is trying to tackle: poor working conditions. Then you have the problem of pollution while distributing the flowers across the United States, pesticides and insecticides and to top it all off they emit methane when they wilt and decay. The alternative for flower lovers? Living, blooming flowers!

Blooming flowers live much longer and are much easier on the environment. Green thumbs don’t matter; many varieties of potted plants are hardy and low maintenance. They’re easy to find too; just visit any local grocery store or garden center and opt for the potted plant instead of the cut roses, or visit Apartment Therapy for ideas on what kind of flowers to look for. Beware, some plants/flowers can be very pricey. Lowe’s carries some reasonably priced house plants that range from $3 to $35.

Where to Buy:

  • Local grocery store
  • Garden centers

Earth-friendly Consumerism

It might not sound like a good precedent to set by giving your loved one a recycled gift for Valentine’s Day, but that’s not your only option. (Although Global Good Partners has excellent recycled products.)

If you go for recycled gifts, just make sure this isn't your shopping destination.
If you go for recycled gifts, just make sure this isn’t your shopping destination.

You can buy fair trade or locally made gifts instead. The Daily Green has some great ideas for what to look for while shopping.

Also instead of the traditional, cheesy Hallmark greeting card, consider making your own! Inhabitat has a couple examples that you can utilize to make creative, personalized cards.

Where to Buy:

So how about it? Are you planning on shopping green for Valentine’s Day? What about any other time? Have you ever bought fair trade, locally made or recycled products? If so, what? Let me know in the comments! Have a great Valentine’s Day!