What is Fair Trade?

Answers for the Socially Responsible Shopper...

The profits from "socially responsible" products are mostly used as advertised (to build schools/supply medical aid/pay fair wages/etc.), but sometimes they just get funneled off to pay for fancy marketing campaigns and PR (Greenwashing).  To help you navigate the confusing world of socially responsible shopping, we've compiled a list of commonly used terms and logos and identified the ones that are easily abused or misunderstood.

Fair Trade

Fair Trade labels are based on a set of standards that require companies to pay producers their fair share of the profits from their goods and forbids social injustices, like child labor, in the production process.  For agricultural products, fair trade wages must also cover the cost of environmentally sustainable practice.

There are a few key companies that monitor the relationship between fair trade workers and the organizations that purchase from them.  These companies grant the right to display their stamp of approval on products that meet fair trade requirements.  If a company claims to be a fair trade company, look for the stamp of certification and do research into the certification to make sure fair trade rules are being followed.
One World Projects is a part of the Fair Trade Federation

Why do I care ? Fair Trade practices reduce poverty, preserve the environment, and improve education, leading to stable democracies around the world. See my full blog entry on the topic: "Answers on Fair Trade".


Thanks to TreeHugger.com
The word "Bio-Degradable" describes any substance made of plant or animal origins, which can be broken down by living organisms. More and more companies are trying to create plastic substitutes that are bio-degradable.  This is great for the environment because, unlike plastic, the waste won't sit in a landfill for the next 1,000 years. Unfortunately, if bio-degradable materials end up inside large plastic bags at the dump, they have no access to living organisms and are therefore no better for the environment than the plastic they replace. In order for bio-degradable materials to be truly good for the environment, consumers must take on the responsibility of composting them in a backyard compost pile or at a local composting facility.

An alternative to bio-degradable packaging, which doesn't require the time or effort of composting and also benefits the the earth, is re-usable packaging made from cloth.  One World Projects sells a marvelous variety of draw-string bags that can serve the same function as plastic bags.  They are made out of the re-constructed fabric of traditional Guatamalan garb, so the manufacturing process is totally sustainable.   Click Here for more information.

More terms to come...