One of the many questions people ask me after they’ve participated in one of our fair trade fundraisers is how they can continue buying fair trade and making a world of difference. This question gives even more meaning to our mission. For me, this is the ultimate win for our organization. It means that they not only had a great experience with our event but they’ve been inspired to continue to help people across the globe improve their lives.
October is Fair Trade Month, so I felt it was the perfect time to share some guidelines for practicing fair trade all year long. I hope these help you make buying fair trade a habit that sticks!
- Understand the benefits of fair trade.
Fair trade is a set of principles that guide how products are grown or made and how they are sold. But for you, fair trade means being a thoughtful consumer. Fair trade products are produced in safe working conditions, with no child labor, and with sustainable practices, all sold at fair prices to pay livable wages to the producers.
Most produce items grown through fair trade practices are also organic. That’s not just a plus for you, but organic also means safe for the farmer and their communities who are protected from unsafe pesticides and chemicals. This shows the good that fair trade does for everyone involved.
- Examine the packaging.
You don’t have to go searching for a special store to buy fair trade. Your favorite grocery store probably has many fair trade items, you just have to find them. It’s actually easier than you might think. Most fair trade products sold in major stores have marks on their packages that indicate they’ve been verified by a fair trade organization. These logos are probably on the front but you may have to pick some of them up to investigate for yourself.
- Check with a Fair Trade organization.
The best way to know that a product is produced and sold with the ethical standards of fair trade is to look for a logo of a certifying organization. Many of these organizations, like Fair Trade Certified, Fair Trade America, and the World Fair Trade Organization keep a database of goods that have been vetted with the tenets of fair trade. Their websites often include a locator feature so you can find more fair trade products in stores near you.
- Start with the basics.
Many products are made and sold with fair trade standards, but you may have a hard time shopping exclusively fair trade. Coffee, tea, chocolate, and produce are products that can be found certified fair trade. These items historically are grown in inhuman conditions, so fair trade farmers and prices are revolutionizing entire communities. Plus, you can wake up with a fresh cup of coffee, enjoy a sweet treat, or enjoy a healthy snack knowing you’re breaking cycles of poverty in families around the world. Not everything is fair trade or can be found in a store, so feel proud of the items you buy that are!
- Find stores that offer more fair trade products.
Many popular regional grocery stores stock their shelves with fair trade products. You can find a selection at Wegmans’s, Kroger, Publix, and H-E-B. But several nationwide grocery stores are also dedicated to fair trade.
Whole Foods is the name most associated with fair trade. Their “Sourced for Good” program works with many organizations to make sure the items in their stores promote tenets of fair trade. Two lesser-known stores that promote fair trade are Aldi and Lidl. These German-owned chains have entire lines of coffee, chocolates, and other snacks that are sustainably sourced and ethically traded. By finding a grocery store that carries a variety of fair trade goods, you can do all your shopping in one place and buy fair trade.
Making a World of Difference
As I’ve built FairTrade Caravans, I’ve learned how important who makes the products I use every day. This is why each product description on our website includes who made them and where. We share information about the artisan/farmer and communities and how they benefit from someone buying the product. When people read these stories, it makes them realize how important buying fair trade is.
During our fundraisers, we educate participants about how the goods they are selling impact real people in real places around the world. We share stories about the artisans making wooden bowls, hand-printing linens, or growing the coffee beans we sell. More importantly, we share how buying from these people helps them earn a living wage, keeps their children away from harsh working environments and in school, and breaks the cycle of poverty within each family and community.
I started in fair trade like most people: curious about what it meant and how to buy it. I checked packages for fair-trade labels and asked clerks if they knew if the store had those options. Luckily, the availability of fair trade goods has expanded in the U.S. since I first started. My hope is that everyone can pitch in to create better work, trade, and living situations for all workers everywhere.
That’s why I founded FairTrade Caravans. Since launching in 2017, we’ve introduced many newcomers to the movement and shown them how easy it is to support ethical production and trade. Our win-win-win fundraising model helps boost communities in the U.S. and countries abroad. You can join the movement by planning your next fundraiser with us or simply choosing fair trade coffee next time you’re at the grocery store.