Choosing Fairtrade Food: Green and Ethical

Although buying food from the local farmers who produced it is the greenest option, sometimes buying locally isn’t possible, particularly when you’re talking about foods that aren’t grown in the United States. When you buy foods from other countries, your greenest choice is to buy foods certified by the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International, an umbrella group that deals with a number of different certification programs around the world.

The Fairtrade mark lets you know that the goods you’re buying are sustainably produced.
The Fairtrade mark lets you know that the goods you’re buying are sustainably produced.

The idea of Fairtrade is that more of the money you pay when you buy an item goes to the producers, who then can pay their workers better and invest more in their businesses, rather than to middlemen or big businesses. It’s a trading partnership that aims at sustainable development for excluded and disadvantaged producers.

You can find a range of goods with the Fairtrade logo on them in the United States, including tea, coffee, herbs and spices, cotton, and even footballs — and the list is growing. You can even find coffee shops that distinguish themselves by selling only Fairtrade-certified coffee.

The Fairtrade label ensures that the products it appears on meet certain standards:

  • Producers are paid a fair price that covers their production and living costs so that they have some security, they have long-term contracts and therefore can plan ahead, and their businesses are sustainable.

  • Producers and workers are allowed to join unions and other organizations that can protect their rights and ensure that they have fair working conditions.

  • No child labor is used.

  • Production methods are environmentally friendly and pesticide-free.

Fairtrade goods often cost a bit more, but the extra money goes toward other aspects of the producers’ welfare, such as education.

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