Thursday, October 17, 2013

#BeFair for Fair Trade Month

Research papers are consuming my life this semester. I'm working on a three huge research projects (the shortest paper is ten pages *gasp*) and all I do is sit and read articles. It's been taking away from my blogging time, but school does come first. I apologize for neglecting you guys a little, but I'll try to do multiple posts a day when I have time to make up for the days that lack!

Instead of this post being about how busy my life is, let's discuss an important topic: Fair Trade. I went to a lecture yesterday about the basics of it, and since October is Fair Trade Month I thought it would be appropriate to spread the word! My school, Manhattan College, is a certified Fair Trade school so I hear about it all the time, but a lot of people don't know anything about it; since Fair Trade is a newer practice I think it's important that everyone should know at least a little about it and become more conscious.

Fair Trade USA has tons of information on their website in case you're really interested in the subject, but I'll highlight some sections here just to give a background. The mission posted by Fair Trade USA is to enable "sustainable development and community empowerment by cultivating a more equitable global trade model that benefits farmers, workers, consumers, industry and the earth."

What exactly is Fair Trade and what is its purpose, you ask? 
Products that are considered to be "Fair Trade" and have the logo for Fair Trade USA on them originate from farmers and workers who are fairly compensated for producing these products, instead of being paid unfair, low wages and/or having to deal with horrible working conditions. Farmers in developing countries are assisted in creating sustainable businesses that have positive influences on their communities. It allows consumers to reduce poverty through purchases made during ordinary shopping trips. More than 1.2 million farming families in 70 developing countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America are currently benefitting from Fair Trade, which is a huge number considering these families lives have been significantly impacted, not just in a minor way.

What products will you be able to find that are Fair Trade?
Items that are globally certified by the Fair Trade network are coffee, tea and herbs, cocoa, fresh fruit and veggies, sugar, beans and grains, flowers, nuts, oils and butters, honey and spices, wine and apparel, ingredients in ready-to-drink beverages, body care products, and spirits. There are over 50,000 retail locations that sell Fair Trade certified products in the US.

Is Fair Trade organic, too?
Many people associate Fair Trade as being organic, which is not the case. Fair Trade promotes organic farming through offering higher prices for organic products, but it is not a requirement to be organic. However, nearly half of all Fair Trade Certified imported products were organic as well. The environmental standards that are necessary to meet Fair Trade criteria are as follows:
1. protecting water resources and natural vegetation areas
2. promoting agricultural diversification, erosion control, and no slash and burn
3. restricting the use of pesticides and fertilizers
4. banning use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
5. requiring proper management of waste, water and energy

So will you be paying a lot more for Fair Trade products?
Another common misconception is that Fair Trade items are more expensive (probably because so many people think that all Fair Trade products are organic, which tends to be a little more pricey than non-organic). Fair Trade chocolate and coffee (these two products are probably the most commonly seen items to be "Fair Trade") are a little more expensive sometimes, but they're not ridiculous and they just match the prices of better quality chocolate and coffee (the real stuff), as opposed to buying a Hershey's bar (which isn't even really chocolate, it's all processed stuff so how can you really compare?). An item such as Fair Trade bananas are noticeably pricier than a non-certified one because "small cooperatives lack the extensive shipping and logistical capabilities of vertically-integrated, multi-national fruit companies and incur higher costs to transport their products to market," according the Fair Trade USA's website.

Some Fair Trade brands to look for in your supermarkets:
Ben & Jerry's
Canaan Fair Trade, LLC
Divine Chocolate (my school sells this and it's really good)
EcoTeas
Green Mountain Coffee
Honest Tea

Starbucks also has a Fair Trade certified dark roast called the Cafe Estima Blend. The awareness for producing Fair Trade products is becoming more popular, but it still isn't as well-understood as it should be. Everyone should be aware, and more companies should definitely take a step in the right direction and at least produce some Fair Trade products. 

I'll get off my soapbox now! Hopefully you guys learned a little and will think about purchasing Fair Trade as much as possible! 

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