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Eco 101: Shop Fair Trade

tea plantation and farmer

Eco 101: How to Shop Fair Trade


Our Eco 101 article last week listed the values behind fair trade: pay a fair price for the goods you buy; deal fairly and respectfully with your trading partners; treat men and women equally, and treat children like children;  provide safe and healthy working conditions; treat the environment with respect and concern for its health and sustainability.  Read the full article here .

You make a difference by choosing fair trade products when you buy coffee, at the grocery store, as beautiful handicrafts and now when ordering flowers too.

Fair Trade Organization logo
Right now you can buy fair trade products in three ways: by buying handicrafts, by looking for fair trade goods at your local grocery store and florest, and by speaking up—ask specifically for fair trade coffees and teas when you buy your daily jolt.

For gifts throughout the year look beyond mass market to the exquisite handicrafts offered online by companies certified as Fair Trade Organizations (see logo at left). You'll find jewelry, accessories, dishes, linens, gourmet goodies and more. And if you are tired of the ongoing fundraisers at your child’s school, introduce them to A Greater Gift. They offer a catalog fundraiser program for churches and schools. See the resources section below for a list of sites you can shop.

Handicraft items once made up about 80% of the market for fair trade goods,
but now fair trade agricultural commodities have come to play the dominant role in the growth of many alternative trade organizations. Agricultural products now account for 70% of the market, and handicrafts less than 30%. They’ve been very successful and offer a much-needed, renewable source of income for producers.


In your grocery store you can look for the following fair trade products: coffee, dried fruits, cocoa, sugar, fruit juice, rice, spices and nuts to name just a few.

Fair Trade logoThe list of available products is growing all the time—just look for the fair trade logo (see left) and you can rest easy—you are buying products that meet fair trade standards. Overseen by both a standard-setting body (FLO International) and a certification body (FLO-CERT), the system oversees independent auditing of producers and traders to ensure standards are met.

You can now request fair trade coffee at Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks, and ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s: TransfairUSA maintains a list on its site of blends to request. And if you buy your java kick at your local gas station ask them to carry Green Mountain Coffee’s fair trade coffee. Green Mountain has a very large distribution network and offer many fair trade blends.

When you order flowers for special occasions, you can go the fair trade route again. Flowers are the most recent addition to the fair trade line-up. Request them when you order at the shop or order online at such retailers as 1-800-Flowers. Look for the section on their site devoted to fair trade gift baskets and flowers.


Yes, You’ll Pay a Bit More—for Now
The price you'll pay for fair trade certified coffees, teas and chocolates is comparable to speciality brands, but higher than mass-produced brands. The same is true for other food stuffs: remember small cooperatives lack the economies of scale enjoyed by large conglomerates. But retailers have plenty of leeway in how they set their prices: as demand for fair trade products grows, competition will drive down retail prices. You can consider the extra dollar or two money spent to back your values, and watch the prices begin to dip as more and more consumers insist on and buy fair trade. In the end, as fair trade producers are able to compete on price, we will all share the good stuff—which is as it should be.


Resources:

Videos on Fair Trade:
http://www.transfairusa.org/content/resources/videolist.php

Watch a Flash Presentation on Fair Trade:
http://www.transfairusa.org/content/feature.php

Handicrafts:
http://www.agreatergift.org/
www.mercadoglobal.org
http://www.gaiam.com
http://www.tenthousandvillages.com/

Information on Fair Trade and Agricultural Products to Look for:
http://www.transfairusa.org/content/WhereToBuy/

Coffee and Tea Online:
http://www.groundsforchange.com
http://www.greenmountaincoffee.com/shop/OurCoffees/FairTradeOrganic

Flowers:
1-800-Flowers or
www.1800flowers.com
   

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