October is the month for a multitude of national awareness campaigns. We have begun to expect crowds running and walking in swarms of pink and orange and to see our favorite sports team accent their shoes or gloves with a special color for a respected cause. However, in spite of this monthly participation, do we recognize and acquire the awareness we are expected to have regarding each plight? Each campaign is connected to an organization or person who holds a story connected to a disease, personal loss, or social and labor injustices.
The awareness we hope to achieve is not simply a date on the calendar, but a commitment to education and change in hopes of ending these difficult human experiences. One less commonly known monthly awareness movement recognizes the certification of fair trade. A recent poll has indicated only 55% of the U.S. population knows what the term fair trade means, regardless of holding a spot on the yearly awareness calendar.
What is Fair Trade?
In the simplest terms, Fair Trade can be defined as an ethical label created to protect the rights of global laborers and producers. This includes fair wages for farmers, no child or forced labor, gender equity, respecting and improving the environment and communities in which a product is produced, and transparency and accountability regarding global labor production and regulations. The Fair Trade Certification is certified through Fair Trade USA, a third party certifier of fair-trade products in North America. This seal ensures the credibility and authenticity the product you are purchasing is truly Fair Trade.
More than one million farmers grow fair-trade products. The most common fair trade products care chocolate, cotton, tea, herbs and spices, coffee, shea butter, and coconut oil. Although fair trade is not the equivalent to USDA Organic, the seal does hold significant value in their production process. Fair trade certification requires certain environmental standards to be met, such as the protection of water resources, the elimination of slash-and burn agriculture, reducing the use of pesticides and commercial fertilizers, and even banning the use of GMOs. Over half of all Fair Trade Certified imports are also certified organic.
For a list of products: http://www.fairtradeusa.org/products-partners
Action Follows Awareness
Holding a true awareness of how our consumption practices affect our global partners in labor and trade is essential. Making active efforts to continue community education and adjustment in our own personal practices is the best way to fulfill the principle concept of an awareness month (for any campaign). Use your new-found awareness to read labels and certifications of your products to determine if they were made with not only your best interest, but also the environment and individuals who labored and produced it in mind.
Photos via: Fair Trade USA (.org)