SCENE: Friday night at the market. It’s been a long, wicked week and this calls for wine, chocolate, and fizzy bath bombs. STAT!
Wait, what is this? Wine from Argentina? Chocolate from Brazil? Kinda’ makes Two Buck Chuck and Hershey’s seem like that boring guy from Accounting. But, a double date with Argentina AND Brazil looks luscious and sounds dreamy…. but, what’s with the jacked-up price? Ah, yes, there it is…. it’s all Fair Trade. It helps the rain forest or something…I want to be a good person, but I also want to retire someday… what does Fair Trade really mean?
While the term “Fair Trade” appears to be recent- the fair trade concept has been around since the mid 1940’s when religious and other non-governmental organizations wanted to find a way to bridge the gap between what developing countries produce and what consumers buy, giving voice to a market unable to compete due to the bureaucratic and economic barriers of production, distribution and marketing. This agreement allows many producers to maintain their cultural lifestyle while building an income stream. For the consumer, it means you can really ‘put your money where your mouth is’ by paying a higher amount for an item that does not exploit the producer, the earth or the labor force. For the win!
Unfortunately, like the phrases “organic,” “all natural,” and “lite,” the term “Fair Trade” has evolved over the decades, as in, what defines a producer. It is one person, family or a cooperative? In an effort to unify countries wishing to adopt Fair Trade practices, the Fair Trade Certification Mark was created to identify a set of economic, labor, and conservation standards. The Fair Trade Certification Mark is currently being used in over 70 countries and quickly becoming the highest standard symbol of the initiative.
One of the earliest resources for introducing this new way of commerce was published in 1968 called the “Whole Earth Catalog.” It operated as a networking tool (before the ubiquitous internet) connecting independent producers with consumers bypassing corporate retail and department stores. Today, the WEC maintains a website (http://www.wholeearth.com/index.php) as offers a whole family of various publications that serve to connect people globally. The first edition, (circa 1968) of the Whole Earth Catalog can be found electronically at http://www.wholeearth.com/issue-electronic-edition.
But choosing Fair Trade is much more than buying organic. Fair Trade has gone far beyond its original intent to connect producers with buyers. Fair Trade also means consumers can support other ethical actions such as guaranteeing goods are produced using sustainable methods like reseeding or replanting crops, water conservation, and endangered animal campaigns. But, probably most common to many consumers who purchase Fair Trade products is the social and cultural (and karmic?) impact of obtaining goods from a labor force free of child and slave labor. This has been an unexpected but welcome side effect as consumers continue to support meaningful causes with their dollar.
So, as you are soaking in your fizzy bath and tipping back some Argentinian vino and nibbling on a Brazilian cocoa square, you can also soak in the pleasure of knowing you are saving the planet and its habitants, both in the moment and in all other moments to come. Ah, saving the world, one amazing ‘ME’ moment at a time! Cheers!