By Rachel Roberts
The winter months are the most important to many coffee shops as people tend to spend more money on coffee during winter. Although many coffee fanatics don’t stop drinking coffee in the summer, they do tend to cut back in comparison to winter. With temperatures dropping more and more as we get further into winter, what better time to start buying fair trade coffee (in addition to other Fair Trade items)?
In short, Fair Trade is a system of exchange honoring ethical practices between producers, consumers, communities, and the environment. The main difference between Fair Trade products and non-Fair Trade products is that non-Fair Trade products are often traded through a number of middlemen, rather than just between the producer and the supplier.
Since Fair Trade is based on a more direct relationship between the supplier and the producer, the producer ends up getting paid a higher price. When you make a Fair Trade purchase, you are supporting:
- a fair price for products
- investment in people and communities
- environmental sustainability
- economic empowerment of small-scale producers
- fair labor conditions, and
- direct trade.
Fair Trade serves as a powerful way for consumers to have a direct impact on the livelihood of those who produce their goods, such as coffee. Many products found in the supermarket have a set Fair Trade minimum price. This is the minimum price that must be paid to the farmers, meaning farmers cannot be underpaid for their product and labor.
Fair Trade, however, is beneficial to more than just farmers. Fair Trade also benefits the environment in a number of ways. For example, the price of Fair Trade coffee helps make it financially viable for farmers to grow coffee in a manner that preserves forests rather than clear-cut them.
Small farmers who grow coffee and cocoa under the Fair Trade USA / Fair Trade Labeling Organization tend to grow their products in more natural settings. For example, plants are grown under the shade of the forest canopy instead of monocropping.
Monocropping is an agricultural practice, where only one type of crop is grown on the same plot of land, every single year. Monocropping is bad for a number of reasons including causing erosion, providing habitats for pests, and adversely affecting soil health.
Some well-known brands that are certified Fair Trade, or are in the process of obtaining Fair Trade certification, include Ben & Jerry’s, Archer Farms, Peet’s Coffee, and even Starbucks!
So how do you know what is Fair Trade certified and what isn’t? Fair Trade food and drinks are certified by an independent third party. Currently, the nonprofit organization Global Exchange acknowledges Fair Trade certifications by two organizations: Fair Trade USA/ Fair Trade Labeling Organization and the Institute for Marketecology (IMO). Simply look for their labels next time you’re at the store to make sure that what you’re buying is Fair Trade-certified!