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Fair is Fair

May 12, 2011

image: fairtradeusa.org

By Jennifer Chaky

Do you hear about Fair Trade and get it confused with Free Trade? Let me help dispel any confusion, because they are two very different things. Fair Trade means paying a fair living wage to producers of products, and thereby helping them live a better life and ensuring sustainable practices are followed in production. Whether they’re officially certified Fair Trade or not, it’s a good idea to check that the products you buy are from a fair source—those that don’t use child labor or engage in environmentally destructive and hazardous work conditions. Free trade means the free movement of labor and capital between and within countries with no oversight by governments. This has a tendency to lead to things like child labor, sweat shops, and environmentally destructive hazardous work conditions.

So Fair Trade=good. Free Trade=sometimes not so good.

This Saturday, May 14, is World Fair Trade Day—the largest Fair Trade event of the year in North America.  Businesses, nonprofit organizations, churches, student groups, civic associations, families, stores, and advocates host hundreds of events, including Fair Trade food tastings, talks, music concerts, and fashion shows to educate people about Fair Trade practices so they know that the products they buy help support good trade practices.

Check out the Fair Trade Resource Network’s events page to locate an event happening near you. In New Jersey there are events in Montclair, Galloway, Hamilton Square, and Teaneck.

If you are buying things like coffee, bananas, sugar, and even soccer balls anyway, why not look for fair trade versions? And if you can’t find items that are certified Fair Trade, try to buy as local and small as possible. With small local companies or farmers it’s easier to find out where there products come from and how the workers and environment are treated. If you have a favorite product or business, inquire with them about their practices—let businesses know you care that buying the things that make your life better make the producers’ lives better too!

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