I'm Brandi and I blog over at http://thefairtradefashionistas.wordpress.com. I've only been
obsessed interested in fair trade for 15 months, 2 days, and 14 hours a little over a year. It's been one of those things that can feel overwhelming when you first scratch the surface. I declared, when I first started blogging, that fair trade had always seemed a little “hippie” to me. It was: smelling like patchouli oil (which has a very “earthy” smell), sometimes greasy hair, bare feet, no make up, an overall nonchalant attitude towards fashion, style, or even, in some cases, hygiene. And guess what y'all? That just ain't my style. I'm a self-professed product junkie. I LOVE shoes and bags. And I was raised right. Southern girls do not leave the house without their "faces" on. Just ask Dolly Parton.
So why did I feel compelled to navigate these "hippie" waters? Well, to make a long story short, we'll just say that God started breaking my heart for what breaks His. Orphans. Slaves. Poverty. But what can we, with our "first world problems," do to help alleviate these mostly third world issues? Well, what do we usually do to alleviate our problems? SHOP! AND EAT CHOCOLATE! AND DRINK COFFEE! Can I get an "amen"? I love the fact that these are practices we already incorporate into our daily lives, but we can, and should, make fair trade choices (for all three). :) And guess what, new Friends? It matters.
It makes a difference.
(This is an extremely simplistic answer. And definitely not all-inclusive) Fair trade shopping helps alleviate the orphan crisis. By guaranteeing a living wage, extreme poverty is being eradicated. And when people are no longer oppressed, down trodden, and are empowered to work, learn, eat? Slavery ceases.
We live in an amazing time. There are so many opportunities. Companies are being started at a grass roots level to help these people in vulnerable situations move towards economic self-sufficiency. And guess what? The products are amazing! Stylish. Well-made. Pride has been taken in the making, designing, harvesting, etc so you can be proud to purchase and give for your closest friends and family, and for yourself (my favorite).
Supporting fair trade standards helps us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Haven't you changed jobs for better pay? Better hours? Better work environment? Why should our neighbors, whether they live in our same zip code, country, or hemisphere, be denied the same opportunities? By shopping fair trade and raising our standards, we're raising theirs as well. Just as faith without works is dead, I'd say "love" is interchangeable there with "faith." If you don't treat love as a verb and ACT, it's just intentions. And we know what they say about good intentions.
You might be asking what you can do? I want you to think big, but START SMALL. Your first foray into fair trade may be picking up a fair trade bag of coffee your next grocery trip. Almost everywhere sells it (even Wal-Mart!). I really love Target's Archer Farms Organic Fair Trade Tierra Del Sol coffee. And it's about the same price as most of the other bagged coffee too. Green Mountain Coffee is another option and they sell the beloved K-cups for Keurigs. While drinking that smashingly good cup of fair trade coffee, you can read a book. I'm an avid reader and don't even know where to start with this. I love Don Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, even though it has nothing to do with fair trade. It's about living your life as a better story. Or there's Jen Hatmaker's 7 that might royally ruin you. And oh. my. word. Melissa Fay Greene's There is No Me Without You?? I almost couldn't take it. And let's not forget Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunns Half the Sky. (This is meat, not milk.) And, for the love, when you decide to go shopping for clothes, jewelry, shoes, hats, or even makeup, come check my blog and see if there are any suggestions there for shopping fair trade. I've spent a small fortune on "research" for it and it pleases me, and especially my budget-conscious husband, to no end if people get something out of it.
So that's that for now. I hope this hasn't overwhelmed you at all and that you feel empowered to make some changes to your shopping habits and lifestyle. It's really painless, and so much fun because of how vested you feel in your purchases. I love knowing that my purchase has helped the actual producer/laborer. And you will too!
Go be love to someone today!