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More to Chew on, Fair and Square

We’re delighted to share a guest post by Kyle Freund, Digital Content Manager at Fairtrade America.

Last month may have been Fair Trade Month, but why not celebrate all year long? Remember, being fair is about more than just looking for a #FairTrade label (though that is an important part). Being fair means thinking about the things you buy and how they’ve made their way to your shopping cart. Every bar of chocolate, every piece of gum, every single banana in the bunch has a story to tell.

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Here are a few facts and tips to chew on the next time you grab a shopping cart, or the next time you see a friend considering that tin of cheaply-produced coffee, or the next time you’re looking at a lovely black frock with a price that’s too good to be true (it likely is).

Get the facts – Looking into where your food and clothes come from can help you live your values. Did you know that 25 million smallholder farmers grow 80% of the world’s coffee, but many aren’t earning a living they can depend on? Or that there over 20.9 million victims of forced labor and human trafficking around the world?

These things aren’t fair. Investigate and get information on the reality behind what you buy.

• Arm yourself with info from Fairtrade America’s section on farmers and workers.
• Check out SlaveryFootprint.org to learn about your ‘Slavery Footprint’ and how you can help fight forced labor.
• Check out the work of advocacy organizations, like Green America or Oxfam to keep up to date on current issues.

Ask the tough questions – You have a right to speak up. Don’t just take what’s on the shelf. Let shop owners know that you’re looking for fairly traded and ethically-produced goods. Ask questions about where products come from.

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Understand Fairtrade’s impact – Fairtrade has a Theory of Change outlining the world we want to see and our place in it. An important part of our work is making sure that we’re making an impact for farmers and workers. According to recent research:

• Fairtrade certification helps Ugandan coffee farmers increase household living standards by 30 percent and significantly reduces the prevalence and depth of poverty (Chiputwa, et. al, 2013).
• Workers on Colombian banana plantations reported an average 34 percent increase in income due to their affiliation to Fairtrade. 98 percent consider that their quality of life has improved since joining Fairtrade (CODER, 2014).
• In a sample of 51 Mexican coffee farmers (26 Fairtrade and 25 non-Fairtrade), there is a proven connection between Fairtrade certification and environmentally-friendly farming practices (Jaffe, 2012).

Fairtrade farmers and workers frequently tell us how certification helps them improve their businesses and their communities, but much of that impact comes when they can sell their products on Fairtrade terms. Support brands, like Glee Gum and others that carry the Fairtrade Mark.

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Remember that Fairtrade is just one part of the solution – Creating a more sustainable world is a huge undertaking and Fairtrade is one tool in your ‘change-maker’ utility belt! A good approach is to shop LOFTy – local, organic or Fairtrade – for maximum effect.

Take the Fairest State Quiz – This one’s just for fun. Follow our friend ‘Greg’ through his day and help him make good, fair choices. Along the way, you’ll find out how fair you really are! Check out fairtradeamerica.org/faireststate.

So, don’t just rest on your ethical shopper laurels. Cogitate before you masticate!

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Kyle Freund is a lifelong advocate of conscious consuming, from his youth growing up on a small-scale dairy farm in Wisconsin, to his service with cooperatives in the US Peace Corps, to his work with coffee farmers in Latin America. For the past six years, Kyle has helped Fairtrade International in Bonn, Germany, and Fairtrade America tell their stories and the stories of the farmers and workers they serve.

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