Fair Trade Shopping For A Better World

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Chocolate and Flowers

fair trade chocolate
Creative Commons License photo credit: Larkyn.

If you are into recycling, you’re probably into other ways of thinking green and being socially conscious. Being a conscientious consumer takes many forms, from consuming less and reusing items you already have, to choosing items with less packaging to reduce waste. Not only does this save money in the long run, you also save energy and reduce the need for new resources while helping support used and recycled products.

But what about perishable gift items like chocolate and flowers? Products like these make great gifts for Valentine’s Day and occasions year-round, and there’s a way to purchase them to take part in a movement that promotes economic fairness: Fair Trade. Each time you purchase a Fair Trade product, you help support families, small farmers and causes around the world.

You may have seen the Fair Trade logo on your bag of coffee. Fair Trade Certified is well promoted for coffee, but the program has expanded to include many types of products, including tea and personal care items. Impacts are thought of in terms of the triple-bottom line: economic, social, and environmental.

Fair Wages to Workers

There are some nasty practices that happen in the production of the cocoa beans, for example, that supply most of the chocolate in candy bars. There are many challenges to be met for the cocoa farmers trying to meet the demand of a multi-billion dollar chocolate industry. Farmers often end up with the rotten end of the deal if they are forced to sell their harvest to middlemen who are dishonest about world prices. There are also reports of child slavery to produce the cocoa beans, making much of the chocolate on our shelves a lot less sweet.

When you buy Fair Trade chocolate, the farmers receive a fair price for their harvest, and slave and child labor are strictly prohibited. Farms are inspected to make sure that Fair Trade standards are in place, and a direct trade link between farmer-owned cooperatives and buyers is created.

Fair Trade ChocolateWhen it comes to flowers, Fair Trade certification also helps farming communities achieve a higher standard of life. With Fair Trade, flower workers not only receive fair wages, but Fair Trade flowers are grown without pesticides which pose harm to the surrounding environment. Many Fair Trade farms encourage women workers to pursue leadership roles, and also receive paid maternity leave and a guarantee of their job upon their return.

Does Fair Trade Cost More?

Sometimes these products are priced competitively compared to products without the Fair Trade logo. Other times, the setup adds to the cost of manufactured goods. This can make it more difficult to compete with overseas companies who do not have environmental regulations, but it is worth investing in these products. Some of the poor countries where much of manufacturing and production takes place cannot afford the environmental controls that other, more affluent, countries can.

Environmental damage that occurs in one regions can still have effects on the environmental quality elsewhere. For example, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, on certain days, a quarter of the dust and soot in Los Angeles originates from China! When you buy agricultural goods and other Fair Trade products, this helps to build their economies so that they can afford these controls in the future.

Participating in Fair Trade also allows small farmers affordable access to a line of credit for the supplies needed at the beginning of the growing season, before their crop money comes in. Without this credit farmers would be forced to sell to multinational-corporation-backed wholesalers to make ends meet.

For even more resources to learn about or teach Fair Trade principles to others, check out Win Win Solutions: An Introduction to Fair Trade and Cooperative Economics by Equal Exchange.

Where To Buy Fair Trade

Depending on your area, you may be able to find Fair Trade chocolate and coffee in your nearby grocery store or local food co-op.

A much wider range of Fair Trade products is found online:

Find chocolate, coffee, crafts, jewelry, personal products and more at Global Exchange.

For home decor, clothing accessories and many other gifts, check out Gifts With Humanity, which offers a Fair Trade Deal of the Day.

Find plenty of Fair Trade gifts on Amazon.

Find more Fair Trade online stores by category on Fair Trade Federation or Fair Trade USA.

Links to products featured on RecycleScene are affiliate links. We try and only feature products that close the recycling loop. Make a purchase of recommended products on our site, and we get a small percentage of affiliate commission to maintain our site. Read more in the Terms of Use & Disclosure link in footer. Thanks!

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