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Urban Druid: Eating Ethically With Fair Trade

Updated on October 12, 2008

'Fair Trade' has been a buzzword since the early 90's, and was once typically associated with African idols, reed baskets, roughly hewn magazine stands and the like. Quite aside from being a decorator's worst nightmare, Fair Trade is actually a powerful means to support disadvantaged people and small producers on a global scale whilst simultaneously removing financial support for those organizations which exploit workers in developing nations.

There are a multitude of organizations involved in fair trading, but the largest of these is the International Fair Trade Federation, which had its inception in 1989. Initially most fair trade goods were handicrafts, however after an initial surge in popularity, fair trade fell out of fashion, and with it the once popular handicrafts. At this point, fair trade organizations worldwide began to diversify and start to include agricultural goods, foodstuffs, and other consumer products in their lines. In many ways, this was where fair trade really came into its own as an instrument for global economic change, empowering the consumer to make the choice as to who and what they support with their dollars.

Today it is possible to purchase over 3000 items which are approved fair trade, including fair trade alcohol, fair trade, coffee, fair trade sweets, fair trade fruits, and so much more. It is true that fair trade goods are quite often slightly more expensive than other goods, however the reasons for this are obvious. When we pay people a fair price for their labors it costs more than when we pay them next to nothing.

Given the vast improvement in the producer's payment, which goes from less than 1% of the unit price up to 20% of the unit price, it is quite amazing that fair trade products are as cheap as they are. The relatively low prices come of course, because the cut that would usually go to a major corporation no longer exists. The supermarket, the transporter, the packager, and the producer are those who are paid in fair trading, not the CEO, upper management, middle management of some multinational corporation that seeks only to maximize shareholder products.

Corporations have caught on to the free trade trend and have been offering free trade products for some time. Starbucks perhaps most famously now offers the choice between free trade coffee and mass market product, a move which has been popular with many consumers.

To find Fair Trade products and stores near you:

Find Local Fair Trade 

To find products in the UK::

UK Fair Trade 

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