There are many things you may celebrate in October – Halloween, Columbus Day, Sweetest Day to name a few – but you may not be aware that it is also Fair Trade Month. To be a well-rounded WanderShopper, you should consider spending some time this month learning more about Fair Trade and where your Fair Trade shopping options are.
First let’s start with some history. Fair Trade is a social justice movement that started in the 1940’s and 1950’s focused on paying fair wages to producers in developing countries. It also encourages sustainability of the environment through responsible sourcing of materials and earth-friendly production models. Fair Trade artisans can also expect safe working conditions as well as respect for their cultural identity. When you purchase an item that is certified Fair Trade, you can do so with the confidence that the item meets these requirements.
One great way to learn more about Fair Trade is to read the book Global Girlfriends by Stacey Edgar. I belong to a fantastic International Book Club at the East Lansing Public Library and it is our selection of the month. Global Girlfriends follows Stacey from a dream to help women in third world countries through the development of her successful business. You travel with Stacey around the world as she sources items directly from the women who create them and learn about the challenges they face daily in their communities. At the end of Global Girlfriends, Stacey lets you know that she considers her book “open source” and encourages you to use whatever ideas and inspirations it gives you to follow your own Fair Trade path. You can easily shop Global Girlfriends through their website.
Now most of us will probably not go on to open our own Fair Trade empire but there are lots of ways to buy Fair Trade items. I visited my community Fair Trade store, Kirabo, to learn more. Gail Catron, the owner of Kirabo told me that the majority of the people who visit her store know very little about Fair Trade when they first arrive. Part of the shopping experience there is to learn what Fair Trade means and directly about the products for sale. Kirabo features signs next to many items that explain where they come from, how they are made and how the artisans are benefited by your purchase. A Fair Trade purchase cuts out many hands between the artisan and you which allows 28% – 40% of your sale dollars to go to the creator. In most traditional stores, the artisan would only earn about 1%-2% of the purchase price.
Kirabo, which means “gift” in Ugandan, was kind enough to allow me to post pictures of their store to give you a better idea of the wide selection of Fair Trade items available. Even if you don’t have a trip planned to East Lansing, Michigan in the next few weeks, you can still purchase items from Kirabo at through their website.
SERRV was one of the first Fair Trade organizations starting just after World War II as a way to help refugees recover. Today it has grown into a $9.5 million network of artisans around the world connecting to American shoppers. I’ve ordered from SERRV many times both for gifts and items for me and can attest to the quality and beauty of what they sell. Explore their site yourself at SERRV.
Another early leader in the Fair Trade movement is Ten Thousand Villages which started in 1946. They work with thousands of disadvantaged artisans in over 38 countries who supply Fair Trade items to their now more than 390 retail outlets. Ten Thousand Villages was a founding member of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO). They were also named by Ethispere as one of the 2012 World’s Most Ethical Companies. You can find a Ten Thousand Villages store near you by clicking here: Store Locator. Or you can shop online at Ten Thosand Villages. Kirabo is a Ten Thousand Villages Alliance Store.
More and more stores are excited about the Fair Trade movement and seeing the success for their Fair Trade competitors starting to carry some certified products. Gail Catron at Kirabo points out that if the goal is to help improve the opportunities and conditions for the artisans, we should embrace every opportunity to buy Fair Trade items wherever they may appear.
One last suggestion I will offer to help you celebrate October as Fair Trade month is to head over to the Fair Trade USA website at Celebrate Fair Trade Month where they give you “10 Easy Ways to Celebrate.” Maybe part of your challenge moving forward is to keep your eyes open for Fair Trade items and buy them whenever you can. It is a purchase that can make you feel really good because not only do you have a fantastic item but you will know that you helped to directly make a difference in someone else’s life.
WanderShopper Discussion: What are your favorite Fair Trade items? Share your source…..where do you like to shop for your Fair Trade purchases?
Photo Credit: Global Girlfriends cover from Amazon.com