A Guide to Fair Trade

We live in an ever-expanding and interconnected world: the things we use every day, from clothes to fruit to coffee to furniture, often make their way to our homes from places all over the globe. With this growing marketplace comes a responsibility to educate ourselves and to be aware of our impact worldwide, and Fair Trade policies aim to make it easier for us to do just that. When we know where the things we buy come from, we can all make smart purchases that promote equality and support sustainability efforts around the world.

What does it mean to be Fair Trade?

The idea of Fair Trade encompasses a range of goals, but the most of important of these is the welfare of those producing the good we purchase. This means that everyone from factory workers to farmers to independent craftsmen are actively involved throughout the entire trading chain and are guaranteed to be paid for the true value of their time, labor, and materials. Workers are also assured a safe working environment free from discrimination and with the right to negotiate. Fair Trade is not about charity, though. Instead, these programs help poor communities by creating economic opportunities and allowing strong, independent businesses to be grow locally and naturally.

Sustainability is another important element of Fair Trade. The careful stewardship of resources is encouraged, as are sustainable farming methods that minimize waste and chemical use. Most Fair Trade programs stipulate that a fair wage includes the cost of running an environmentally responsible business, so when you buy Fair Trade products, you’re making it possible for small businesses to make environmental concerns a priority.

 How does Fair Trade certification work?

So how will you know if something you’re buying is Fair Trade? There is no formal regulation of the use of Fair Trade labels, but there are a number of organizations that certify Fair Trade products. The main ones are Fairtrade International (FLO), the World Fair Trade Organization, the Network of European Worldshops, and the European Fair Trade Association (these four are loosely aligned in an organization known as FINE). Each of these work to promote Fair Trade and also to verify products on the market that meet their standards. FLO is the most common certification found on American products, and they also operate programs in Canada, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. You can find their seal on a wide range of products, including coffee, honey, chocolate, fruits and vegetables, tea, and wine, as well as other good like linens and health and beauty items.

Other organizations will provide Fair Trade certification for companies instead of individual products. The non-profit Fair Trade Federation (FTF) supports North American companies that practice Fair Trade policies, and any business advertised as part of their association will meet their guidelines for worker safety and environmental responsibility.

Where can I find Fair Trade products?

While they still make up only a fraction of total sales, the availability of Fair Trade products continues to grow year after year. FLO certified coffee now makes up about 4% of the U.S. market, and market share is as high as 20-50% for other goods like bananas and tea. And these sales have a real impact: FLO estimates that their Fair Trade policies support over 1.2 million farmers and workers worldwide. To find Fair Trade goods in your area, start by looking for the FLO seal – you can find it on all sorts of products like coffee, cotton, and sports equipment. You can also look on the FLO and FTF websites to search for companies or specific products. Here at Greenhome, we support Fair Trade companies and carry a variety of certified products, including clothingsoapskitchenware, and beauty products.

We believe buying Fair Trade makes a real difference to people all over the world, so we want to encourage you to take the time to learn where the things you buy come from and to shop responsibly.

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