I met Taylor Finch, manager at a fair trade company called Momentum in Boulder, Colorado. Momentum offers a unique array of fairly traded products. Every item Momentum carries is crafted by the human hand, tells a story and provides employment opportunities for artisan groups around the world. Taylor’s passion and expertise on the importance of fair trade was so informative to me! As pursuers of justice, it is our responsibility to put our treasure where our hearts are. Read more about Taylor’s store, and stay tuned for collaborations in the future!
Written by Taylor Finch, store manager at Momentum Fair Trade
We live in a world where we are constantly surrounded by the flow of ideas and information, not always correct and often ill informed. With so much misinformation it can be hard to gather clear answers for simple questions such as what do I buy, where do I buy it, what companies do I trust, and where can I find them. It can feel overwhelming and a tad daunting; I have felt it and I am sure you have to. We ask ourselves, I want to make impactful choices with my dollar but am I doing it the right way?
I want to make impactful choices with my dollar but am I doing it the right way?
In the sphere of conscious consumerism the phrase ‘voting with your dollar’ comes up a lot and has come under quite a bit of scrutiny for being in other words completely bogus. Well I am here to tell you that bottom line you CAN make a difference. Do not be misguided or discouraged by blogs and articles telling you that conscious consumerism does not have an impact. Your choices matter, and your consumer decisions impact communities and groups beyond your scope of knowledge. How is this so? Well let me tell you.
Adversaries against conscious consumerism will argue that our singular decisions of what to buy does not have a strong enough impact to make lasting changes. My response to this would be, have you heard about Fair Trade? When broken down Fair Trade is a simple idea. It is about changing the way goods are created and trade works by giving marginalized groups the opportunity to make business decisions on their own, and join the global marketplace in a way that will help themselves, their children, and their communities. Empowerment is at the core of Fair Trade and artisans that work within Fair Trade are given fair wages, access to health care and education, decent working conditions, and a greater collective bargaining advantage. Now I know what you are thinking, these ideas all sound nice and all but how do we know this is actually happening?
Fair Trade sets standards as well as Fair Trade premiums to ensure that artisans are taken care of, and that their voices are being heard and taken into account in the decision making process. “The Fair Trade standards cover key areas for environmental protection including energy and greenhouse gas emission reduction, soil and water quality, pest management, biodiversity protection, [and] the prohibition of genetically modified organisms and harmful chemicals.” Through training by Fair Trade organizations farmers and artisans can learn new technologies that create more environmentally friendly practices such as developing nutrient-rich soils that aids healthy plants and prevents pests and diseases. In addition to these standards that are set in place producers own a Fair Trade premium.
This is essentially a sum of money that is saved in a communal fund until artisans democratically decide which project to use the money towards. Projects aim to break cycles of poverty by bettering their economic, social, and environmental conditions. “For farmers, that can mean improving business equipment or practices. Farmers and workers can invest in community improvement projects that might include building schools, funding scholarships, improving sanitation, transportation or healthcare.” As you can see Fair Trade organizations have some pretty awesome regulations set in place to make sure producer-consumer relationships are transparent and ethical.
Fair trade also helps women by challenging traditional gender norms and boosting female participation in business. In communities abroad women spend a large portion of their time engaging in unpaid word. They are the ones primarily responsible for collecting water, household work, and childcare. We have all heard the statistic that globally women make 77 cents to the male dollar. Well I have bad news for you, this statistic holds up abroad as well. Women in developing countries often work in informal jobs that offer less upward mobility and career advancement.
With Fair Trade women work EQUALLY alongside men, earning the same wage and being afforded the same opportunities. Fair Trade empowers women by instilling self confidence which has lasting effects for themselves and their families. Many women working in cooperatives receive the education they deserve to help them start their own businesses. In many communities abroad social and cultural norms exists that challenge female entry into the workplace. Fair trade organizations aim to challenge those social stigmas and bring women into the conversation. “In Morocco, 60 women farmers challenged a long-standing local tradition that a women’s husband or father was the sole breadwinner, when they established Tighanimine, the first Fair Trade argan oil cooperative.” Regardless of where we come from we as women all desire the same things- dignity, respect, a voice.
So as you can see, conscious consumerism has an immensely wide range of impact. So next time you are in the grocery store look for that Fair Trade label and splurge the extra .30 cents on that Fair Trade chocolate bar. Supporting ethical brands does not just stop with food though. You can easily find fair trade and ethical apparel, home goods, jewelry, purses, the list goes on and on. Just know where to look and do your research. Ethical brands and companies such as Tesla, Maggie’s Organics, Equal Exchange, World Finds, and Mata Traders are just a few of the many great companies out there that you can support.
If everyone had the mindset that your voice or dollar doesn’t matter where would that leave us? Grassroots movements are started by people for people to invoke hope and inspire change in the world around us.
Grassroots movements are started by people for people to invoke hope and inspire change in the world around us.
Fair Trade, conscious consumerism, whatever you would like to call it is more than a trend, it’s a movement and it is changing the way producers and consumers interact.
“Gender Equality: Good for Women, Business & Development.” Fairtrade International (FLO). N.p., 06 Mar. 2015. Web.
“What Fairtrade Does.” Fairtrade America. N.p., n.d. Web.