Fair trade is becoming less of a hot topic issue just for the “tree-hugging” crowd and is becoming a global issue and part of our everyday lives. Around the world, consumers are learning how they can spend their money more responsibly to ensure that the suppliers of goods like coffee, tea, cocoa, bananas, flowers, wine, cotton, and more are supported fairly by their industries. According to fairtrade.org.uk, consumers spent about 1.6 billion pounds on fair trade certified products in 2007—an increase of 47% from 2006!
Using Fair trade certified food and other goods is better for the environment and for the overall economy of the world. Here are some of the best ways you can support fair trade as you simply go about the business of your life:
Shop at Fair Trade Stores
Many stores around the nation and the world specialize in selling fair trade goods. While not everything these stores sell will be fair trade certified, a good portion of the items they carry often is, which means you don’t have to hunt too hard to find products that are fair trade certified. Stores that carry many fair trade certified goods include obvious options like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Starbuck’s, but you can even find fair trade certified products in more surprising locations like Safeway, Costco, Sam’s Club, and Target.
While you’re shopping, look for the label that certifies products as fair trade. While some companies will try to say their products meet the fair trade certification guidelines, the actual certification and label is the only way you can be sure. Fair trade certification ensures that workers are paid adequately, that children are not forced to work in dangerous environments, that farmers use sustainable farming practices, and that the producers of the goods you’re using actually have a say in what happens to their industry.
Ask for Fair Trade Products at Your Local Stores
As a consumer, you have the power to ensure that fair trade products are introduced wherever you shop or dine. You have the spending power, which means you have pull with suppliers, stores, and restaurants. Any time you are someplace that sells especially important fair trade products life coffee, tea, and chocolate—and you don’t see fair trade products on the shelves or the menu—ask when the store or restaurant will start using fair trade products.
You can also use your consumer’s pull by spending a little extra to get fair trade products whenever possible. The more consumers show businesspeople they’re willing to spend the extra money to ensure they are buying products that are socially and ecologically sustainable, the more vendors will start carrying and using fair trade products.
Know the Most Important Fair Trade Products
While it’s important to buy products that are produced sustainably and that are from companies that support their workers adequately whenever possible, there are certain products you should strive to always buy fair trade certified. These products include coffee, tea, cocoa, rice, bananas, flowers, and sugar. These products come from industries that are especially prone to harmful social and environmental practices, so buying fair trade when it comes to these items is certainly worth the time, money, and effort required.
If you’re in an area where fair trade hasn’t caught on yet or you want to buy fair trade items you can’t find in your hometown, shopping online is a great option. Many websites specialize in selling fair trade items of all sorts. Also, shopping online can net you good deals on fair trade products by purchasing in bulk. For instance, the Equal Exchange Coop (www.equalexchange.coop) offers fair trade coffee from all over the world in bulk five-pound packages that save you a bit of money and that also cut down on packaging.
When you shop online for fair trade goods, make sure to use a credit card to pay, since credit cards offer better protection than debit cards. If you don’t currently have a credit card, you can find the best credit card deals online. You can even look for a card that offers a charitable rewards program that allow the rewards from your fair trade spending to fund projects to help the environment or disadvantaged people groups. Even if you don’t typically use a credit card, using one for online purchases can be a good idea, and if you choose to pay off your balance each month, you won’t have to deal with interest payments.
Daniela Baker is a personal finance blogger at http://www.creditdonkey.com/ and eco-conscious mother of two. She says, “If every consumer with money to burn would simply get behind fair trade products, the world would be an infinitely better place. By putting your hard-earned money towards fair trade products rather than those from companies that exploit the environment and their workers, you’ll make a much bigger difference than you ever thought possible.”