Apparently, October is Fair Trade month. And, in light of that, I have one question for you: Is your coffee fair trade?
If you shop at our local Walmart, the odds are that your answer to the question is "no." That's because on the nearly half-aisle that the coffee display takes up at our store, there are only two options if you plan to go fair trade. And, one of them is nearly always out of stock. (No, I do not have photo evidence of this. It was a pretty busy day at the store when I decided to verify this by checking the label of every last bag/canister of coffee. And, though I'm sure I looked crazy checking all those labels, I decided not to take it that final step and photograph the coffee.)
Why? Why are there so few options? I can only come up with one viable solution: Not enough of us know about fair trade. And, since we're not demanding it, the stores aren't stocking it.
I have to believe that this is the case. If it's not, then the answer must be that we know about fair trade, and we just don't care. And I refuse to believe that we as a human race could be so calloused. I believe that we DO care about one another.
According to Fair Trade USA, 5 million men, women, and children in developing countries benefit from the sale of Fair Trade products. "An item that is Fair Trade certified is produced in a socially and environmentally responsible way: No children are employed, the environment isn't threatened, the working conditions are safe, and the labor force is justly compensated." That all sounds pretty good, huh?
It's been over two years since I last posted about fair trade here on the blog. A lot has changed in that time (for example, we've traded in our Keurig). Organic vegetables have become more available. Many producers have begun labeling non-GMO products. Our grocers are doing better about stocking shelves with local products. But, I've just not noticed much of an increase in Fair Trade awareness.
There are, of course, lots of certified fair trade products that we can purchase, but coffee seems like a good place to start. Since I'm not in love with the only fair trade variety I've been able to find at the store lately, I'm going to purchase mine online the next time I'm ordering something else from Amazon, so that they can be bundled together. I have heard (but can't yet verify) that Kroger may have a better fair trade coffee selection, so that could be an option, too, for those of you who are local.
A switch in your coffee selection would be a great move personally. But what could you do to help promote Fair Trade awareness? Perhaps consider purchasing one fair trade item for a friend or family member this year at Christmas. Be sure to include a note about why you chose that item for them. Need ideas? This page at fairtradeusa.org offers links to sites where you can purchase clothing and home goods. Or, if you're an Amazon addict, like I am, try searching for "fair trade jewelry" on their site and enjoy!
We Americans vote with our dollars. When we buy organic or natural foods, we are voting for health and for a more sustainable food system. When we buy local, we are voting for our environment and local economy. Buying fair trade is voting for a better way of life for others -- others who may not get to cast many votes with dollars themselves.
In the children's sermon this past Sunday, John reminded the kids of Jesus' answer when he was asked about the greatest commandment. Jesus answered ("To love the Lord your God . . . ") but then added a second commandment, right on its heels: "Love your neighbor as your self." John asked the kiddos gathered around him how they could love their neighbors. Their answers were pretty entertaining. Of course, none of them said, "drink fair trade coffee," but they certainly could have. Using our purchasing power to look out for our neighbor is certainly a way to love those we may never have the opportunity to love in person.