My friend likes to tease me and call me a tumbleweed. He thinks I fly like a dandelion in the wind, floating from one cause du jour to another.
He’s partially right—I do become impassioned by a lot of things and when I do, I try to learn and then act on that learning. And also share any pearls I pick up along the way. I believe we are all students, all teachers, all wandering souls journeying through life.
I find as I get older, as I rally for peace and oneness in the world, I must too advocate for fairness and basic human rights. Because I am finding I can’t find peace and oneness when I am deeply, deeply disturbed about issues such as sex slavery, child slavery and homelessness, here in the United States and around the world.
My tumbleweed soul blows me into different directions, tumbles me into dark places and back alleys to teach me how inhumanity often masquerades itself in three piece suits.
For instance, I recently wrote about learning how Hershey, Nestle, Mars and chocolate companies have been knowingly using poor farmers and child slaves to harvest cacao beans. I learned how much of our cheap chocolate actually comes at an exorbitant price in the form of human suffering and trafficking. And now, I can’t eat their candy.
But this dark discovery led me to start studying about Fair Trade. I had heard the term before but it never landed on my heart until I read the stories of child slavery and learned how buying fair trade chocolate was at least one way of ensuring I wasn’t supporting the systematic enslavement of children while indulging in a bite of dark chocolate after dinner.
So here is my sharing, and some of what I have learned about Fair Trade.
Fair Trade is about ensuring that the people who grow, sew or create your products get a fair price for their work. By buying Fair Trade products whenever possible, we can help farmers and factory workers in countries around the world work and earn their money in safe conditions and improve their lives and communities. The basic tenets of Fair Trade include no child labor, no forced labor, fair wages, no discrimination and safe working conditions.
Why does Fair Trade matter?
In addition to being more humane, fair trade practices can help address deeply rooted social issues such as poverty that destabilize large parts of the world.
Organizations such as Fair Trade USA, are working to create global partnerships in numerous industries so that conscious consumers can use their dollars to shop responsibly. The organization also certifies and audits companies that wish to brand themselves as Fair Trade partners. So in the instance of chocolate companies, Fair Trade certification assures that Fair Trade cocoa producers are regularly audited against strict labor standards. So consumers who buy their chocolate from certified Fair Trade companies can rest assured that that child slave labor was not part of the recipe when harvesting the cocoa. (These are the only chocolate bars I now buy.)
Fair Trade is a social movement that’s time has come. It gives power to the craftspeople, the consumer, and to the corporations that have the vision to see that Fair Trade is sustainable when we all work together to support it.
What Can You Do To Help?
We have a long way to go, but more companies are seeing the value in becoming a Fair Trade partner, especially as the demand for Fair Trade products from consumers rise. As people become more conscious about their food source and Fair Trade in general–and more consumers show they are willing to pay somewhat higher prices associated with Fair Trade products–it becomes more profitable for businesses to sell socially responsible goods.
But the reality is, the majority of our goods are not Fair Trade products and many are manufactured under less than desirable conditions. Once you start unraveling the truth of how our products or food are manufactured or harvested, you might find yourself feeling helpless or powerless to make a difference. Don’t fall victim to the overwhelm. I always say, start small. Start with something. Maybe it’s the chocolate you buy. Or the coffee (that’s next for me).
Maybe you become a little more conscious or judicious about your clothing labels. Maybe you start your own investigation.
If you want to make the world a better place, shine a little light on dark problems, it’s easier than you think. Look for the Fair Trade label on products whenever possible, pull out your wallet and when you can afford to–put your money to a cause that shows your faith in an economic system rooted in justice, fairness and humanity.
That’s a worthy cause my tumbleweed soul can blow with on any day.
Here is a list of Fair Trade companies put out by Fair Trade USA.
My friend and good hearted soul, Edwin Edmundson, owns Earth Divas, a fair trade company that is 100% focused on providing women in the developing world opportunities to earn a decent wage. If you’re looking for hats, purses, clothing, wallets and other artisan goods, check out his site and his mission.
(If you want to read more about integrity, harmony and grace–particularly at midlife–read my book, Tao Flashes.)