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WHAT IS FAIR TRADE?

A lot of people wonder how fair trade is mixed in with the green attitude and a sustainable lifestyle. According to Wikipedia’s definition, “fair trade is an organized social movement and market based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries and promote sustainability”. If you don’t quite understand the fair trade system have no fear, we are about to dive a little bit deeper.

My best definition would be along the lines of paying a just and fair amount for products rather than taking advantage of the economic situation of where that product is coming from. It is a system of trade where living wages and employment opportunities are offered for the goods that are produced in developing countries. Fair trade is an equal exchange program where the money you pay for a product reaches the communities delivering it. Basically, it is a way for you to know that the money you spend on products of fair trade is not being intercepted by middlemen; instead the profits reach the people growing it.

Goods such as chocolate or coffee can be certified as fair trade by organizations like Fair Trade Labeling Organization which affiliates in 17 countries. Producers partner up with international organizations that help them build better skills to market and sell goods. All products that meet the fair trade standards do so under strict values that will benefit the people and the country the products come from.

The most common fair trade certified food in the United States is coffee, which has been around for about 20 years. Fair trade coffee has even crept its way into grocery store chains and national franchises, not to mention its appearance in every Starbucks. Despite its popularity in the US and around the world, the coffee market has taken a sharp nose dive over the last few years, leaving many small farmers unable to make a living. Because of this, many non-profit organizations develop a system that tracks the goods from the farm all the way to the final product and verifies compliance with its standards.

So now that you know a little bit more about fair trade products, look for them in your local supermarket, food co-op or café. Perhaps you work somewhere where you can support fair trade products; we highly encourage you to do so. Remember that your actions as a buyer support or discourage actions by businesses. By becoming a conscious consumer you are making the decision to provide better standards of living for artisans all over the world, which is especially important in developing countries.

Plus, it is just another way of knowing that the businesses you support are doing their part in creating a better tomorrow for people who may be less fortunate. Hopefully this helps you understand the growing need to support fair trade and what it does for our interdependent earth. Look for the Fair Trade icon on products that are committed to helping developing countries thrive.

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