I’m trying to post more information about ethical and ecological parenting, you might also want to check out my article on Organic cotton.
In 2008, an independent panel of experts declared that Wales was the very first Fairtrade Nation in the world and it was followed afterwards by Scotland. The UK really is leading the way towards fair, sustainable and ethical trade practices and that’s something to be proud of – but what does it really mean?
What is Fair Trade
Fair Trade is a movement dedicated to ensuring that the actual workers and growers receive a fair wage and fair working conditions. This ensures that the money you spend goes directly to the people who worked to bring you a product and then into the local communities in disadvantaged countries that are often taken advantage of by large companies. The promise is that a minimum fair price for the product will be given, allowing these workers to plan for a future and have an element of security in their lives. It also guarantees safe and fair working conditions, environmentally responsible and sustainable production methods and it guarantees that women have a voice.
When you see the Fairtrade mark on an item then you know it meets these guidelines.
Fair Trade Parenting
It’s not easy when you’re a parent just trying to juggle work and home life on a budget. Fairtrade can cost more and for many families, mine included, every penny is important and we have to make careful purchasing decisions. Sometimes though it really is possible to switch to a fairer product without breaking the bank. It can be as simple as switching which coffee shop you buy your morning brew from to one that uses Fairtrade coffee, or buying that bouquet of birthday flowers from a supermarket that sources them from fairtrade.
The thing with Fairtrade is you don’t have to go all or nothing. It really is a case of every little helps. So if you see just one thing a year that you can swap to Fairtrade, then you’ve made a difference.
It’s not all about money either, Fair Trade Wales says that “Young people are the key to fair trade becoming part of our normal shopping habit and for solidifying fairness in trade.”
By educating our children we are making fair trade seem like a normal and expected part of life. This raises awareness across the country, and with schools, colleges and universities on board, educating this generation makes it easier for future generations too. For me, I wasn’t raised with any awareness of fair trade and never gave it much thought. For my son, I’d like it to seem natural to him and be an integrated part of his life. By chatting to schools and encouraging our kids to take part in fairtrade activities, we’re making a difference.
What can I buy that makes a difference?
- Bananas – The Co-operative, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose all sell 100% Fairtrade bananas.
- Chocolate – Cadbury, Divine, Green & Black’s, M&S, Sainsbury’s Taste the difference, The Co-operative & Waitrose are just some companies meeting the Fairtrade Guidelines.
- Gold – When buying a special piece of jewelry, ask if Fairtrade Certified Gold is available. Gold mining is a hard and dangerous job, where small-scale mining receives little of the big profits at the end.
- Beauty Products – Boots Extracts contains Fairtrade ingredients, and you can find smaller independent suppliers selling fairtrade, vegan and organic beauty products.
- Coffee – A lot of supermarkets and coffee shops sell Fairtrade coffee, so look out for the stamp or ask before you order.
- Cotton – The cotton industry is one of the most exploitative and environmentally damaging ones in the world. I’m going to talk a little more about Fair Trade Cotton below.
- Flowers – Interflora, Arena Flowers, M&S, Moonpig, Sainsbury’s, Serenata Flowers & The Co-operative offer Fairtrade flowers. You can still buy supermarket flowers and support fair trade!
- Sugar – The Co-operative, Sainsbury’s, Steenberg’s, Tate & Lyle, Traidcraft and Waitrose offer fairtrade sugar options, giving £5 million back to sugar farmers a year.
- Tea – The co-operative, Clipper, Cafedirect, M&S, Sainbury’s, Steenbergs & The London Tea Company offer fairtrade tea. Even Tesco’s Finest Black Tea is now Fairtrade Certified.
These are the largest production areas in which the farmer or worker at the source is often exploited. By checking whether these items have a Fairtrade alternative, you can really make a big difference.
Fair Trade School Uniforms
The UK spends over £1 billion per year on school uniforms, which is a staggering amount, yet very little of that is spent on Fair Trade Uniforms. Clothing is still a big area which is outsourced to countries and companies that do not follow Fair Trade guidelines. The cotton farming industry is one which is deep rooted in problems, with poor working conditions, health problems for the workers, poverty wages, forced labour and all that on top of serious environmental concerns. If this is something you’re concerned about, you might also want to read my post on the cotton industry and in particular, the difference between regular cotton (which supermarket and high street chains use) and organic cotton, which is much more environmentally sustainable.
Picking organic cotton isn’t enough though, it’s only if a uniform has the Fair Trade tag that you know the money is going back to the farmers and workers. Picking a fair trade uniform tells you that your money will be going to drinking water, schools, books and healthcare in disadvantaged countries and not encouraging the hellish working conditions that plague this industry.
You can make a difference!
So as you can see, there are many ways in which you can make a difference by switching out one of your regular products for a Fair Trade item, or by educating your children and supporting schools and community projects. Ask your children’s school if they support any Fair Trade projects currently and you might be surprised to find out just what you can get involved in. For my local readers, as the world’s first Fair Trade Capital, Cardiff has a lot to offer and you can find more at Fair Trade Cardiff’s website.