Fair Trade Finds
By Lisa Turner
Celebrate World Fair Trade Day (May 12) by making a commitment to focus on fair trade products like coffee, tea, and spices

If you're reading this article, chances are good that you're already pretty darn environmentally conscious. Want to amp it up even more? Seek out fair trade products.

As you probably know, the organic label is one of the best ways to ensure that you're getting products that are grown or produced according to environmentally responsible practices. Fair trade addresses a different set of standards, and is mainly focused on social and economic aspects.

Here’s How it Works:

fairtradeIn the conventional supply chain, small farmers and other producers from developing nations have to go through a number of different middlemen—including buyers, processors, exporters, brokers, distributors, and multinational corporations—before their products ever reach the shelves. As a result, most receive only a fraction of the market value of their goods, and many operate at a loss. The fair trade supply chain eliminates many of these middlemen. Generally, the producer is part of a co-op that sells directly to the fair trade distributor, who then sells directly to the store or cafe—so the producer gets a higher net price for his or her goods.

Fair trade practices also promise safe and ethical working conditions, and some producers may help fund schools and health care clinics for workers and their families. And while fair trade products aren't required to be organic, most either adhere to organic standards or are grown and produced according to environmentally responsible, sustainable, and passive organic practices.

Coffee and chocolate are the most common fair trade products on today's market, but you'll also find bananas, pineapples, mangoes (and other tropical fruits), wine, sugar, and other goods. And as awareness of the fair trade label grows, artisan wares such as baskets, scarves, jewelry, and even flowers are also becoming available. Here are a few of our favorites, along with reasons why it’s a good idea to seek out the fair trade label.

dean'sbeans theochocolate rishitea

Coffee

Fair trade coffee plantations offer some of the last remaining habitats for migrating birds.

Fair deals: Dean's Beans (shown here: Uprising Breakfast Blend); Conscious Coffees; Equal Exchange Fair Trade Coffee; Green Mountain Coffee.

Chocolate

With growing awareness of the exploitation of child labor in some chocolate producing areas, this sweet treat has become the second most commonly certified fair trade product after coffee.

Fair deals: Theo Chocolate (shown here: Salted Almond Dark Chocolate); Dagoba Organic Chocolate; Divine Chocolate; Green and Black's Organic.

Tea

Fair trade products ensure that workers are paid and conditions are safe in exploited areas.

Fair deals: Rishi Teas (shown here: China Breakfast Organic Black Tea); Choice Organic Teas; Numi Organic Teas; Traditional Medicinals Teas.

sweeteners rice vanilla

Sweeteners

Mainstream sugar plantations are environmentally and socially irresponsible; fair trade alternatives ensure better conditions.

Fair deals: Wholesome Sweeteners (shown here: Organic Sucanat;) Alter Eco Unrefined Ground Cane Sugar; BioFair Organic Maya Honey; Equal Exchange Organic Cane Sugar Packets.

Rice

Most aromatic varieties, such as basmati and jasmine, come from Thailand, India, and Pakistan, where growers are especially vulnerable to shifting market price and middlemen.

Fair deals: Alter Eco Rice (shown here: Organic Hom Mali Jasmine Rice); Eighth Wonder Heirloom Rice; Woodstock Farms.

Spices

Prices rapidly fluctuate on the open market, but fair trade vanilla ensures that farmers get a fair price; and a shorter supply chain means you'll get fresher, more aromatic products.

Fair deals: Frontier Natural Products Co-Op (shown here: Organic Vanilla Extract); Starwest Botanicals.

Personal care products

Small producers in developing countries are ensured a more equitable price on their goods when the layers of brokers and middlemen are eliminated.

Fair deals: Zambeezi (shown here: Organic Beeswax Lip Balm; Aura Cacia Organic Cocoa Butter; Shea Radiance natural bath and body products; Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps Hemp Rose.)

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10 Eco-Friendly Tips

Here are some easy ways to "green" up your kitchen.

  1. Cut foods into smaller pieces; they'll cook faster and require less energy.
  2. Use your toaster oven to cook single-serving or small portions of food; they use a fraction of the energy of a full-sized oven.
  3. Thaw frozen foods before cooking, to shorten cooking time and save energy.
  4. Keep pans covered with a lid during cooking, to retain heat and shorten cooking time.
  5. Don't use the garbage disposal; it requires large amounts of water and energy to get remaining solids from the wastewater plant to the landfill. Invest in a small home composter instead.
  6. Use the electric kettle for more than tea; it boils water faster than stovetop, and you can also use it to boil water for pasta and other foods.
  7. Use a pressure cooker for grains and beans to speed cooking time and reduce energy use by as much as 75 percent.
  8. During baking or roasting, turn the oven off during the last few minutes of cooking; the residual heat will finish the dish.
  9. Don't preheat the oven for foods with long—more than 40 minutes—cooking times.
  10. Glass and ceramic dishes conduct heat more efficiently than metal, so you can lower cooking temperature by 20—25 degrees.



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