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Fair Trade Your Home – From Top to Bottom

The call to “Fair Trade your home” has been gaining attention recently. Recent awareness campaigns have shed light on the abundance of inhumane work conditions many around the world deal with, that we in the “developed world” exploit. Often it seems like overcoming such a complicated issue is impossible for just one person or family to do, but I found out it’s not such a big undertaking after all. Buying Fair Trade is a win-win proposition!

For example- buying coffee from its growers—instead of companies working as intermediaries—not only helps those individuals (who are often producing in developing countries) but also works to protect the eco-systems where the products are grown and produced. Fair Trade certification incorporates ecological and environmental health standards in addition to human rights standards. Plus, many coffee connoisseurs will tell you that fairly traded, shade-grown coffees taste better!
Maybe you’ve heard about Fair Trade sugar or chocolate options too, but did you know that many of our household goods are made by people working in appalling conditions for far less than a living wage? People have (rightly) protested this for decades; I still remember an Olympic torchbearer who ran barefoot to protest the sweatshops used by Nike nearly ten years ago. While not often making front page news today, sweatshop labor accounts for many of the goods we in the US consider common household items, including clothing, jewelry, furniture, decorative items, and food. 

So what can we do?
Purchasing fairly traded goods helps producers and suppliers earn a living wage and take steps to protect the environment. The Fair Trade system also serves to empower individuals and communities, support women’s and children’s rights, promote dignity and respect, and connect developing nations with developed nations and markets. Supporting Fair Trade systems benefits everyone!

World Fair Trade Day organizers are calling on Americans to get those sweatshop items out of their home and to instead “Fair Trade your home” by supporting farmers and artisans worldwide. On and around May 8th, people in 80 countries worldwide will hold events to mark World Fair-Trade Day so as to highlight the importance and benefits of fairly traded products.

Chicago took the first step in a 5-step process to become a Fair Trade Town on February 10, 2010, by approving the Chicago Fair Trade Resolution

Vancouver is also working to be one of the first major Canadian cities to seek fair-trade status and become a Fair Trade Town through its work with TransFair Canada. 

Some of the best ways to get rid of sweatshop items in your home and to go Fair Trade are as follows:

* Purchase Fair Trade Coffee, Tea, Sugar, and Cocoa:  When conventionally purchased, these popular food items are often grown in “sweatshops in the fields.”  Buying them Fair Trade Certified™ means that farmers are being paid a fair wage and communities are being supported.

* Purchase Fair Trade clothes – from t-shirts to shoes to dresses, there is beautiful Fair Trade clothing from all over the world made by artisans who are paid a living wage.

* Buy Fair Trade home goods – plates, tablecloths, and even furniture can be purchased Fair Trade.

* Buy Fair Trade handicrafts – from vases to sculptures to rugs – Fair Trade artisans produce beautiful crafts. And, when you purchase them from Fair Trade organizations, you know that no child labor or sweatshops were involved. 

* Gift Fair Trade – You can purchase Fair Trade toys for kids, sculptures for adults, and chocolate for everyone on your list.  When you gift Fair Trade, you are both giving a high quality product and introducing someone to the value of purchasing Fair Trade every day.

Stores and organizations focused on Fair-Trade 

Learn more about Fair Trade and local events at Chicago Fair Trade and Vancouver Fair Trade

10,000 Villages – My number one stop for giving gifts to family and friends (and buying treats for myself). Locations in Chicagoland and Vancouver!
GreenHeart – Hosts classes, and a host to lots of local Chicago artists. Plus you can register here for weddings and showers!!
Leeba Creations – A favorite site of mine for clothes shopping from women’s cooperatives in India.
Maya Works – After working across from this booth at Green Fest 2009 I couldn’t resist getting a beautiful print skirt – I receive more compliments on this skirt than anything I’ve ever worn! It’s airy for summertime and warm enough to wear with tights in the Chicago winter.
Distant Village – Paper, boxes, wrapping, and more.

Learn more and enter by May 15th to win one of many fair trade prizes!!

By Green Mama contributor Cecelia Ungari.

Photos: Shutterstock

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