Up until several years ago, I hadn’t really thought too much about where the products I purchased were coming from. With the availability of cheap, trendy clothing (hello, Forever21) and handy online shopping, I had fallen into a state of “ignorance-is-bliss” when it came to spending my money. And to be honest, for a while the only word I heard “fair trade” in front of was coffee (which, incidentally, became the first agricultural product to be certified fair trade in 1988). Then one day as I was perusing videos on YouTube, a beauty vlogger I followed showed off her new bracelets, which just so happened to be handmade in Nepal by women earning fair wages. A couple months later, I spotted them in a small boutique while on vacation with my family, and happily purchased a few. I already knew I would love them, but what I hadn’t expected was that I would remember the story behind those bracelets each and every time I put them on. And every time I received a compliment on them, I got to share that story with both strangers and friends.
Thus began my love affair with fair trade. Now, I am most definitely not an expert in all things fair trade, nor do I shop exclusively fair trade. I still love a good sale or consignment shop find, and probably rely on Amazon Prime a little (okay, a lot…) too much. But each year, I try to take steps to make more of my purchases through fair trade vendors than the one before.
Now you many be wondering, “What exactly is fair trade?” Simply put, fair trade is just that – goods that are traded fairly. Fair trade products come from producers (farmers, artisans, family-owned businesses, and other workers and creators) in developing countries who are justly compensated. The World Fair Trade Organization defines fair trade like this:
Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South.
Fair Trade organisations have a clear commitment to Fair Trade as the principal core of their mission. They, backed by consumers, are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade.
When workers receive fair wages for their work and goods it increases their quality of life. They are able to meet the immediate needs of their families. Not only that, but as they are able to better provide for themselves and the ones they love, their self-worth increases. Through the protection of better and fair business practices, individuals who were vulnerable (oftentimes women) are empowered. In addition, fair trade practices positively impact the community as a whole. Money earned by fair trade companies and workers is invested back into the community. The availability and quality of resources such as education, housing, and healthcare improves.
Awesome, right? I know.
Like any changes we make, deciding to buy more goods that are ethically sourced might seem a bit overwhelming. Instead of going crazy and getting overwhelmed trying to fix all of the things and then throwing in the towel, start small. Halloween is right around the corner. Unfortunately, many candy and chocolate companies utilize child labor to harvest their cocoa beans. Instead of grabbing any old bag of candy to give out, make sure any trick-or-treaters who stop by your house receive only fair trade, ethically sourced Halloween candy.
In my family, my parents always appreciate a list of items we would love to make gift buying for birthdays and holidays easier on them. For the past few years, I have made it a point to include plenty of fair trade goods on it, and last Christmas they made up my entire list. Whenever I receive a gift from a company that is committed to ethical business practices, it makes my heart happy. I really and truly enjoy my gift all the more, and love to share its story with others. So if you have a birthday coming up, and as the holiday season approaches, make a list for or drop some hints to those buying for you, and let them know that you would love to receive gifts from fair trade certified companies. (Psssst – some of my favorite companies are listed below!)
Likewise, if you have a special someone to buy a gift for, make it fair trade! There is such a great variety of fair trade goods out there that you are sure to find something for everyone.
If you are a coffee drinker (and all the mamas and daddies of littles said “Amen!”), make it a point to stock your home with ethically sourced coffee. Or, if you prefer, make it tea. Or sugar to put in your coffee and tea.
There are plenty of ways to start exercising your spending powers for good – just start somewhere. Because with each purchase you make, lives are improved. By choosing fair trade, you become a part of a global movement to empower vulnerable individuals to create a better world.
Favorite Companies with Ethical Business Practices
Krochet Kids – Cozy hats, scarves, clothing, and other accessories for men, women, and children
Fashionable – Gorgeous jewelry, scarves, and leather goods
Noonday Collection – Beautiful scarves, jewelry, and other accessories
Trades of Hope – Lovely home décor as well as jewelry, handbags, scarves and more
Honest Tea – Delicious bottled iced teas and other drinks