Bohemian Style

If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you might remember a post about the fair trade quilt I bought for my bedroom. This quilt, which I adore, came from a company called Fair Trade Quilts & Crafts, and as you can see from the photo, you could say it’s a “lot of look.”

Quilt from Fair Trade Quilts and Crafts

My bohemian-style quilt from Fair Trade Quilts and Crafts

It was out of my design comfort zone to get something so patterned and vibrant and handmade-looking, but now that I have it I wouldn’t change it. Fair Trade Quilts seems to have anticipated this kind of hesitation among North American consumers, because their Pinterest is full of inspiration photos of bohemian interiors that would go with the style of their products.

I started following them after I purchased the quilt, and at first I was a little overwhelmed by the colorful interiors showing up in my feed. But now…

I love it.

Obviously these stylized shots take the look to the extreme, but I’m definitely feeling an affinity for the eclectic, multicultural, textile-heavy aesthetic. I would love a hanging lantern, or a dramatic curtain over my living room window, or a carved wooden end table. Just a few accents can give a room a bohemian feel without being overwhelming.

I read an article recently that said that the bohemian style should look like your home is decorated with items you’ve picked up on your world travels. I love the idea of each piece having an authentic or personal story. If you don’t have the time or budget to actually circle the globe, choosing fair trade is an excellent way to accrue a collection of meaningful items from around the world that truly reflect and respect the culture of the people who made them. (For a related train of thought, see my previous blog post about the tribal trend and cultural sensitivity.)

Some of my favorite sources of fair trade home decor items are SERRV, Ten Thousand Villages, Global Gifts (a local fair trade shop in Indianapolis), and of course Fair Trade Quilts & Crafts.

What do you think about the bohemian style? Would you ever incorporate a bohemian element into your home?

Great Intentions: Eat Healthy Food

A Year of Great Intentions: Eat Healthy Food, photo of fresh fruits and veggies

Eating healthily has so many great benefits. When I have cut out processed foods, soda, and sweets and replaced it all with nutrient-rich grains, vegetables and fruits, I have slept better, become more alert and energized, and even noticed more optimistic thoughts and feelings. Based on this personal experience, along with my college nutrition class and studies I have read, I think I’m correct in saying that there are some great improvements to the biological and chemical activities of my body when I am eating well.

There are a few steps to properly change what you eat. You can talk to your doctor or nutritionist, read a couple good cookbooks, and write a meal plan. Personally, I hope to take this a step or two further by choosing organically produced food as well as ethically produced food! When it comes to healthy and fair trade food, my goal is to always pick fair trade when there is an option for it. If you would like to  join me in intentionally changing your food purchases to reflect your ethical values, start off small and as easily as possible. You might consider signing up to have a pre-selected package of healthy, fair trade – and affordable – items delivered right to your door.

Here are my tips for ethical, healthy food shopping:

  • Browse through the natural/organic section of your grocery store and look for fair trade certified nuts, grains, herbs, spices, and tea. These items may be spread out throughout the regular aisles, too.
  • Check out your local organic/health food store, fair trade shop, or Whole Foods Market.
  • Buy local produce, dairy, and meat.
  • Hit the web and shop online through such retailers as Good Guide or through Fair Trade USA’s Products & Partners.

The market for fair trade food is still quite small, but it is growing – as is consumer demand for it, according to this article by Fair Trade USA that has studied this growth in certain types of stores. Finally, if you’d like to join the movement of buying healthy, ethically-produced food, please review our Certifications page before you head to the market, so you know which labels to look for.

What stores have you found fair trade food in? We would love to hear what you’re finding in stores near you. Please comment below!

Thank you so much for following the A Year of Great Intentions blog series. I hope I have helped you reimagine how you can be intentional in shopping, purely to help improve the lives of others through your consumer choices. I wish you a truly wonderful Year of Great Intentions!

Why Fair Trade? Paying Fairly

Why Fair Trade? Paying Fairly. Fair trade felted fox.

I can’t get enough of this little guy I saw at the conference!

In our series Why Fair Trade?, I aim to illustrate some of the main reasons why supporting fair trade is important to me. Today we’re going to explore the fair trade principle of paying fairly.

At first, the term “paying fairly” by itself sounds great. Who wouldn’t agree that everyone should be paid fairly for their work? But if you think about it a little longer, the question arises: what does “paying fairly” actually mean?

Here is a summary of the Fair Trade Federation’s guidelines for paying promptly and fairly:

  • Empower producers to set prices based on the true costs of labor, time, materials, and sustainable growth
  • Comply with or exceed international, national, local, and, where applicable, Fair Trade Minimum standards
  • Equal pay for equal work by women and men
  • Ensure prompt payment to all partners
  • Offer producers access to interest-free advance payment or pre-financing with favorable terms

Fair traders also work to ensure that producers are paid a living wage that enables them to meet their basic needs.

I got a taste of the complexity of determining fair prices and wages in a session at the Fair Trade Federation conference last week. As described by Karen Gibbs from By Hand Consulting, the process of determining the artisan’s selling price of a fair trade handicraft goes something like this:

Setting a fair selling price infographic.

  1. Determine the fair hourly wage for the artisan(s) by considering their monthly expenses and how many hours they work. Other cultures do not always follow the American model of 8-hour workdays five days a week, so it takes research to find out what it would actually take for the artisans to earn a living wage.
  2. Determine the total cost to produce the item by tracking and adding the costs of materials, labor (using the fair hourly wage) and overhead. Artisans may not have accounting skills or tools, so some training is often part of this process.
  3. Consider the target customer, competition, quality, and desired profit margin, then set the selling price. This is the price that the artisan will receive from the first buyer, often a wholesaler.

As the item passes through the distribution channel from artisan to exporter to importer to wholesaler to retailer, the price of the item increases at each stage. These increases are due to shipping costs and the overhead and profit margins taken by each “middleman.” Many fair traders attempt to cut out as many steps as possible to reduce costs, but it’s still not unusual for the retail price of an item to be seven times more than what the artisan was originally paid. (I had no idea importing goods was so expensive. Mind = blown!)

As you can see, determining fair prices and wages is a complicated process. This makes me a little more understanding of why more companies, especially smaller companies, don’t do it (even though it’s the right thing to do), and it also makes me incredibly appreciative of the fair traders who put in the effort and commitment to ensure producers are paid fairly.

Fair payment is one of the many reasons I choose to support fair trade. Why do you choose fair trade? Do you have any questions about fair trade? Let me know in the comments!

Fair Trade Federation Conference Recap

Thumbnails of conference speakers and exhibition. Fair Trade Federation Conference Takeaways
Wow! I had such an amazing time at the Fair Trade Federation conference last week. I got to meet tons of passionate people involved in various aspects of the fair trade movement, and I also learned a lot about the specific details of putting fair trade principles into practice.

Here are some of my major takeaways from the conference:

  • There are two different schools of thought in the world of fair trade right now. One school of thought says that high standards applied by small businesses (i.e. Equal Exchange coffee grown by small farmers) is the best way to make progress toward a more fair world. The other school of thought says that by loosening standards to allow larger companies to participate (i.e. Great Value brand fair trade coffee at Walmart), we increase volume and thus increase our impact. Both groups have similar goals regarding producer wellbeing but different visions of how to get there.
  • Determining a “fair price” is a complicated process! It takes a lot of effort and dedication to work with artisan groups, many of whom don’t have basic accounting skills or tools, to determine their cost of materials, labor costs and overhead to factor into what the fair price for their product should be. Fair traders are committed to doing this legwork to get the price right.
  • Fair traders are extremely considerate about respecting cultural identity and partnering with artisans in an equal way. They do everything they can to avoid condescending to artisans or fostering dependency. Their goal is to give artisans the freedom to determine their own destinies.
  • One big question fair traders ask is, “How do we measure our impact on artisan communities?” Many speakers shared about the dramatic improvements in self-worth and confidence that they saw in their artisans from participating in fair trade. However there is now a desire within the movement to go beyond those qualitative improvements and back them up with quantified results such as the percentage of artisans’ children who are in school and the frequency of their meals.

I plan to expand on some of these takeaways and others in later posts. In the meantime, be sure to check out our gallery of photos from the exhibit hall below or on Facebook—there were oodles of gorgeous and interesting fair trade products on display!

Disclosure: As a media partner I received complimentary access to the conference and one of the swag bags given to all attendees, which contained some fair trade product samples. I received no other compensation for my promotion of this event.

Spread Kindness with the Be Nice Box

Array of cards, tiny cookies, notes and stickers

Today I’m excited to feature an inspiring project called the Be Nice Box that aims to help people spread kindness in their daily lives. My sister featured the Be Nice Box on her blog several weeks ago and when I read the post I said to myself, “My readers would love that too!” The Be Nice Box is the creation of Diana Neidecker, and I asked her to explain her idea in her own words.

What is a Be Nice Box?

The Be Nice Box is a monthly subscription box service, encouraging others to ‘spread their own kindness.’ You can think of the box as a ‘random acts of kindness toolkit’ that you receive in the mail each month. Each month, we pick a new theme & all of the acts of kindness revolve around the theme. Each box contains a list of 12 good deeds that can be completed throughout the month. Also inside each box, are four cool, handmade, sustainable items to help complete a few of the items on the list. And finally, every subscriber receives a small gift for themselves, as a thank you for helping to save the planet. We also donate $1 to charity for each box sold.

Monthly subscription box services are everywhere right now & as far as I know, this is the only box on the market where the items inside are for the benefit of others. Most box services give you items for yourself {clothes, make-up, food}, but the Be Nice Box is all about spreading kindness and being good to others.

Why did you decide to create this business?

Last April, after the Boston Bombings, I wrote a blog post about 26.2 acts of kindness we can complete to support those who were affected. The post got a large amount of traffic and it really made me think. Whenever tragedy strikes, we all decide to focus on kindness. We commit to hugging our children, to not freak out about the dirty socks on the bathroom floor and to call our grandmas more often. The more I thought about it, the more it bothered me. So, I decided to launch a new blog called ‘A Year of Minnesota Nice.’ The goal is to complete 365 acts of kindness and to document the journey ; I am almost 200 days in and the project has, without a doubt, changed the way I view the universe.

This fall, the blog started picking up steam around the same time I decided to leave a 12-year career in education. I knew that I wanted to turn my blog into a business, but had no idea what that looked like.

One night, my partner Blake & I were out walking our dog and we were just brainstorming business ideas. As we were chatting, I said ‘I just want to find a way for people to spread their own kindness.’ And *boom* the Be Nice Box was born! We basically ran home & that night, I created a business plan.

The idea hit me on October 1st, I launched the website and sign-ups on October 15th and the November boxes went out two weeks later!

How do you incorporate fair trade and/or ethically-made items into the boxes?

Sustainability is extremely important to me as a human, so I knew that when I launched this business, I wanted to hold on to that. Everything we do revolves around ethical practices and sustainability.

The boxes and the address tags we use were both purchased from a surplus store. Some local businesses shut their doors and we were able to purchase thousands of labels and hundreds of boxes for pennies. Our purchase helped support a local business, and kept all those items from being thrown away.

The majority of our office supplies and packing materials are second-hand and made in the US.

Each month, I deliver all of the local {Minneapolis} boxes and mail the rest. In the winter months, I drive a hybrid car around the city and in the summer, all boxes will be delivered by bike. The post office is nearby, so most months, I load up the boxes {anywhere from 40 to 70} and walk to the post office.

The artists and businesses that we partner with also value sustainability. The products we include in the boxes are from companies who treat their employees, manufacturers and the environment with respect. I like to think that the Be Nice Box has a powerful impact that goes beyond practicing the kindness in the box.

Since launching, we have worked with awesome companies such as Mama Ganache Chocolates, Equal Exchange, Project 7, LIFEline fashion and Wild Harvest Organic.

The Be Nice Box has existed for six months now, and I am proud to say that with each passing month, I am becoming more passionate and excited to share this experience with companies, artists and people who truly want to create a better planet!

Dog laying on floor with cardboard boxes and colored paper

Diana’s pup Daphne helps assemble the April Be Nice Boxes

Explain how Be Nice Box partners with charities.

Each month, we pick a new charity and donate $1 from every box sold to them. Our charity always aligns with the theme, so as you are out in your community spreading kindness, its in the back of your mind that your good deeds are making a difference in of the parts of the world, as well.

Since launching, we have supported :

  • Ten Thousand Things: MPLS-based theatre troupe that provides free performances in prisons, homeless shelters & housing projects.
  • Himalayan Cataract Project: They provide low-cost eye surgery to people in developing nations
  • Open Arms MN: They grow, cook and deliver healthy, organic meals to Twin Cities residents who are living with terminal illnesses
  • Blessings Basket Project: They provide on the job skills & training for women in poverty to be entrepreneurs, create and sell their own baskets and lift their families out of poverty
  • Project Success: Local MPLS organization who motivate and encourage all students in Minneapolis and St. Paul to set goals and then offer resources to achieve them
  • LIFEline Fashion: Started by a small group of women in Kenya; all mothers of children with special needs. they create hand-made items to pull their families from poverty

Can you give a us a sneak peek into what will be in the next box?

The theme for the May box will be ‘feathers & fur!’ I have been planning this box for over six months and am super excited for it to launch! All of the good deeds in this months box will be about animals ; animals that provide for us {BEES!}, ways to support animals {local shelters and rescues} and more! There are a limited number of boxes each month; there will be 70 boxes available for May & they will ship April 27th.

The Be Nice Box offers one-, three-, six- and 12-month subscriptions with free shipping and is available in the US only. Gift subscriptions are also available.

Thanks to Diana for sharing her vision for spreading kindness! How do you try to spread kindness in your life? Tell us about it in the comments!

News Roundup: March 2014

Image of yellow tulips with heading "Hello, Spring!"

Springtiiiiime! Let’s ignore the fact that it’s snowing in parts of the country. Spring is technically here, and it’s giving my mood a major boost, merely by the fact that it can’t be winter forever. I’ve even had a few days when I got outside to run and enjoy the sunshine. Of course, when I wasn’t doing that, I was reading ethical lifestyle articles like a boss. Check out my picks from this month below!

(I found several of the articles below in Modavanti’s new newsletter “The Weekly What.” I couldn’t find a subscribe link on their website, but I think if you just register for their site in general you’ll receive it.)

The Opiate of the Masses – Leah shares her thoughts on why ethical consumerism shouldn’t be the only way we express our values and concern for people and the planet. Very thought-provoking! (Style Wise)

Style Is the Way You Live Your Life – Gala Darling is one of my favorite blogs to read for a healthy dose of encouragement and girl power. This post emphasizes how your purchases don’t define your style—it’s more about being creative with what you have than about buying the latest designer item. (Gala Darling)

AllSaints, Urban Outfitters Fail to Address Forced Labor in Cotton Sourcing – This article summarizes a report from the Responsible Sourcing Network which surveyed companies on their policies and practices related to sourcing cotton from Uzbekistan, where forced labor in cotton production has been extensively documented. (Ecouterre)

25 Shocking Fashion Industry Statistics – This list includes statistics on global apparel spending, pollution from the textile industry, and garment industry wages. (TreeHugger)

Why I Invest in Ethical Fashion – This article provides a concise rationale for the ethical shopping movement, comparing it to the dramatic emergence of the organic food movement. (PandoDaily)

Retailers want answers from Cambodian PM over factory shootings – I’m not sure how I missed this… did you know that in January, Cambodian security forces shot at and killed workers who were protesting low wages? (The Guardian)

The Post-Landfill Action Network – This is a great program started by college students to solve the huge problem of waste caused by the year-end move-out purge. Students rescue usable items in the spring and re-sell them to students in the fall when they move back in. I love how this program connects unwanted items with people who want them! It’s such a key part of the sustainable sharing economy.

Organic Equal Exchange Chocolate Easter Eggs – Temperatures are rising (in some places… sort of…) which means the window for ordering fair trade chocolate online is closing. Equal Exchange is offering milk and dark chocolate easter eggs, plus their usual minis. Stock up before temperatures get above 75!

New ethical lifestyle blogs found this month:

New shopping sites found this month:

  • ThredUp – Online consignment store allowing users to recycle clothing from their own closets and purchase high quality used items (found via Style Wise).

What are you reading lately? Is it getting to be spring-ish where you live?

Great Intentions: Take a Trip

Title of post over a map of Africa

As I mentioned in my first A Year of Great Intentions blog post, I will soon fulfill my dream of traveling back to Italy. It has been six years since my amazing semester spent studying in Florence, and I’ve had a hankering to return ever since. My main goal for this trip is to live like a local – stay where the locals live, dine where the locals dine, and shop where the locals shop. As I make plans, I do think how wonderful it would be to have a guide to help me choose places to visit and activities to do that will leave a positive mark on the people who live and work where I will tread.

Many studies have been done on the economic impact of tourism. While the conclusion is that this industry does have excellent benefits, there are negative consequences as well – often depending upon the tourist’s choices, and the status of the country’s development. I will keep the following three points in mind as I traverse Italy, and do my best to avoid those things that can hurt instead of help the locals I wish to respect and be gracious to. Here are some simple tips for those of you wishing to do the same:

  • Buy local food and drink. That is, avoid the purchase of imported goods. You will help lower the demand for costly imports that decrease revenue.
  • Stay in locally-owned hotels rather than international chains or all-inclusive resorts. This way, more revenue will stay in-country.
  • Travel in off-season. This will be an advantage to your street vendor or taxi driver who may be struggling to get by until more tourists arrive.

Finally, what if I told you that there are actually guides out there who will assist you in making decisions that do good to the local economy? They may not be everywhere, but if you haven’t chosen your next travel location, perhaps one of these will catch your eye:

Fair Trade Tourism (FTT) – FTT-Certified Places to Stay and Things to Do in South Africa, plus Fair Trade Holidays to Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Fair Trade Travel Pass – 21-day “Travel Pass” in South Africa.

Tourism Concern – Ethical Tour Operators in several locations; some current examples are Burma, Romania, Kenya and Tanzania, and Nepal.

As I keep telling everyone I know, I can’t wait until I arrive in Roma and become reacquainted with the country I fell in love with while in college. I am so grateful for this chance to travel again, to a gorgeous country at that! Where do you hope to visit next? Do you have any other tips you would like to add?

Check out the rest of the posts in Laura’s Great Intentions series.

Is Trendy Fashion Ethical?

This post is an expansion on some thoughts I had while gathering links for last month’s roundup. In particular, my thoughts were brought on by this pair of pants:

High-waisted black overalls from Accompany

I came across them while perusing the website of new high-fashion, ethical retailer Accompany. High-waisted, skinny-leg black overalls. It takes a moment for the mind to fully grasp. Did I mention they’re dry clean only?

My initial question about these pants was whether such a trendy, bizarre, expensive, impractical article of clothing could be truly billed as ethical. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I had bigger underlying questions about the relationship between fashion, trends and ethics.

I have a knee-jerk dislike for overtly trendy items because to me they say “fast fashion.” Whether the item was made by a sweatshop or a fair trade co-op, it’s still destined to be worn only a few times before being discarded into the waste stream as tastes change. Best case scenario, the item ends up being thrifted and loved by several different owners. On the other hand, it could be part of a shipment of donated castoffs sent to a developing nation, undermining local garment production. Or it could go straight to a landfill while the original purchaser orders this season’s latest style, beginning the cycle again.

I realize that this reaction is not necessarily warranted. As an art school grad, I appreciate the artistic aspect of fashion, in the same way that I appreciate the artistry of an expensive meal. And if designers are going to be producing off-the-wall pieces as a matter of creative expression, I’d obviously rather them be made by workers in good conditions than in sweatshops.

Collection of trendy ethical clothing including a fringed t-shirt, reptile shoes, sheer top and blue jumpsuit

A few examples of trendy items found on ethical shopping websites

I think the root of my disdain for these items and the trendy collections they represent is that I see the ethical shopping movement leaning disproportionately toward fashion-forward, high-end designs targeted to young, affluent, educated women. This makes total sense from a business perspective, because that’s the market that is aware of ethical shopping issues, has disposable income, and generally enjoys fashion. I can’t fault these companies for knowing their audience. What I can fault them for is playing into the fast-fashion mentality that this audience has learned from the system ethical companies are supposedly trying to alter.

The truth is that very few people can wear items like these, for a variety of reasons. I’d like to see ethical options be available to everyone, from young to old, fashionable to frumpy, skinny to plus-sized, high-income to low-income.

That being said, I have to remind myself that the ethical shopping movement is young and that every new market served is a victory. We’ve come a long way from every fair trade dress having dragonflies batiked on it. I have faith that eventually there will be options for everyone. We’re just not there yet.

What are your thoughts on ethics and trends? I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the most fashionable person, so I’d love to hear the opposing viewpoint from someone who actually enjoys fashion.

The Inside Scoop about the Fair Trade Federation Conference

The Fair Trade Federation Annual Conference in Indianapolis is rapidly approaching! To get all the details on the event, which will be held downtown from April 1-3, I interviewed Suzanne Cotter from the Fair Trade Federation.

Fair Trade Federation 2014 Annual Conference | April 1-3, Indianapolis, IN | Photo of Indianapolis downtown Monument Circle

Fair for All: A main focus of the conference is on the business side of fair trade. What would a person who is not part of a fair trade business get out of the conference?

Suzanne Cotter: First and foremost, the Conference is always a wonderful opportunity for those newer to the industry to meet a special group of people who are doing the very best work in fair trade… the kind of direct, in-depth work the Fair Trade Federation stands for! There’s really no other gathering of fair trade businesses quite like this and the learning and networking opportunities are boundless. We recommend the Conference to anyone interested in working with artisans in specific regions, staring their own fair trade business one day, working in fair trade product design and development, or anything else that falls under the fair trade umbrella… many Conference attendees this year have had foundational roles in bringing the fair trade movement to the U.S.

Who are some of the speakers and presenters you’re excited to have at the conference?

This year we’re thrilled for our plenary speaker Jonathan Rosenthal, Executive Director of Cooperative Coffees, consultant at Just Works Consulting, and co-founder of Equal Exchange and Oke USA. We’re also excited for the expanded list of sessions for businesses working primarily in agriculture — like the agricultural pricing roundtable which will include Michael Skillicorn of Dean’s Beans, Bena Burda of Maggie’s Organics, Kim Lamberty of Just Haiti Coffee, Jonathan Rosenthal of Cooperative Coffees, and Stacey Toews of Level Ground Trading. There will also be an expanded list of sessions for retail stores, including a session on building sales with a regular special events schedule with Rich Howard-Willms of Plowsharing Crafts. We’re also offering some exciting sessions for wholesalers like developing producer empowerment and involvement with Pushpika Freitas of Marketplace: Handiwork of India.

Tell me about the film premiere of “Connected by Coffee.”

Connected by Coffee movie posterConnected by Coffee is a great documentary film covering the lives of coffee farmers and the benefits of fair trade relationships. The film — by Aaron and Chelsea Dennis of Stone Hut Studios — aims to show how coffee farmers and coffee drinkers can work together to create a more just trading future.

The screening during the Conference will be the world premiere, which is really exciting for us! We’ll be hosting it at the Athenaeum Theatre in downtown Indianapolis — a beautiful historic space that’s really walkable for locals. The event is open to the public (we’ll be selling tickets for $8 at the door) and we’ll have a Q&A panel afterwards. This event is another a great opportunity for folks who can’t commit to attending the full Conference to meet some of the attendees and participate in he Q&A; we’ll have the filmmakers, the FTF Executive Director Renee Bowers, Jonathan Rosenthal of Cooperative Coffees, and Matt Early of Just Coffee.

How is the conference partnering with local Indianapolis fair trade organizations?

We’re working closely with local FTF members Global Gifts, Imani Workshops, and The Village Experience to get to know the Indianapolis area a little better and to spread the word about the Conference. Global Gifts in downtown Indianapolis will also be hosting a small reception right before the film screening on April 2nd from 6 – 7:30 pm. All are welcome to attend and browse the store!

Are there discounts on registration? When is the registration deadline?

Yes! Full-time students will receive a significantly discounted registration rate. Anyone can register for the Conference up until Monday evening, March 24th — a week before the Conference starts. You can register online on the FTF website.

Thanks to Suzanne Cotter for sharing the inside scoop on the conference! I know I’m excited to attend and learn more about what makes a fair trade business tick. If you want to know more about the conference, visit the FTF website.

Disclosure: As a media partner I am receiving complimentary access to the conference. I am receiving no other compensation for my promotion of this event.

Why Fair Trade? Creating Opportunities

One thing I have struggled with as I have changed my shopping habits is explaining to people why choosing fair trade is worthwhile. I sometimes even have a hard time articulating what fair trade is. With this new series “Why Fair Trade?” I plan to share some of the main reasons that fair trade is important to me and how it makes a real and positive difference in people’s lives.

First, let’s start with a basic definition of fair trade:

What does that mean? Basically, fair trade is a way of doing business that is intentionally designed to be fair to all partners and lead to positive development for participating communities. To me, that sounds like how people and businesses should behave all the time, which is why fair trade is such an obvious choice for me.

So how do fair trade businesses help develop communities? One way is by…

Creating Opportunities for Economically and Socially Marginalized Producers

Fair trade businesses partner with artisans, farmers, cooperatives and other producer groups who are in some way marginalized or disadvantaged in the global marketplace. Producers could live in an impoverished area with few employment options or poor infrastructure, they could be workers gaining job skills after escaping domestic abuse or human trafficking, or they could be independently-owned farms competing with large corporate plantations. These are just a few examples of the types of producers who benefit from fair trade but may not otherwise have the ability to compete in the conventional marketplace.

By choosing to work with these types of producers, fair trade businesses offer workers a sustainable way to increase their income and quality of life. This development comes through safe and fair employment, not through charity, which helps communities break the cycle of poverty.

Beyond just creating an initial opportunity, fair trade businesses also help producers build their capacity by forming long-term partnerships and providing training on product design, finance, and other business skills.

Here is an example of how one fair trade business, Greenola, created opportunity for women to lift themselves out of poverty:

In Bolivia, Greenola collaborates with sewing cooperatives, particularly cooperatives of indigenous women, to create fun, fashionable clothing.

The women are doubly disadvantaged. Bolivian society often undervalues the worth of women in the workplace and many of their 50+ artisan partners have faced a lifetime of racism and discrimination because of their Quechua heritage. [...]

Greenola has helped the women organize and provided start-up loans and regular orders so that the women could improve their own lives, receive a living wage, and be connected to the global market. Socially, Greenola also facilitates opportunities for the women to manage, operate, and innovate within their cooperatives.

Source: Fair Trade Federation

I hope that explanation sheds some light on how fair trade can truly improve lives. Do you have questions about fair trade? Let me know and I’ll try to answer them in a future post!