Tag Archives: fair-trade

What If We All Did Small Things?

As we talked about a couple days ago, there is definitely a difference between “small things” and “big things” in the lifestyle choices that we make. Yesterday, we talked about, on a practical level, what the day in and day out lifestyle of an ethical person might look like. Today, it’s time to contemplate and consider if all those “small things” really do make a difference. We’ll talk about reducing energy, buying sweatshop-free clothing and fair trade coffee.

What if we all reduced our energy consumption (like turning down our heat)? Instead of using 80% of the world’s resources we take only our fair share? Maybe global warming is true and we save ourselves from utter destruction. Maybe it’s not true and we simply take a step down from our high pedestal and join the rest of the world.

What if we all bought sweatshop-free clothing?
If everyone made a small decision to change the brand of clothing they bought from Hanes to say, Alternative Apparel, it would have a huge impact. Yes, it is true that many pocketbooks would be a a bit thinner, but not that much. Almost overnight millions of once sub-living wage, oppressive jobs and corporations would be lost and other just and fair jobs would fill their places. Communities in the third world would begin to thrive off of fair wages rather then suffer under practical slave wages.

What if we all purchased Fair Trade Coffee?
The impact would be similar to that of the clothing industry, lighter pockets in the USA, thriving communities in the rest of the world. And everyone lives happily ever after.

Corporate Responsibility: For Clothing Meet Maggie

Corporate Responsibility Mondays

Corporate Responsibility Mondays continue as we turn toward clothing
companies. It’s something you and many generations before and after you
need, whether you like it or not. Ever since the fall there’s been a
market for us to cover ourselves, and a beautiful opportunity for us to
do so in a responsible way. What you wear is not just about fashion and
style, there is so much more to it, there are real people behind the

In cooperation with Josh, Corporate Responsibility Mondays are our chance to introduce you to both the troubling facts behind some of our big brands (thanks to Josh)
and to people and corporations that are doing business in a way you can
support and believe in. Today we are talking about the clothing
industry. Josh will talk about one of the big names in the business, and I’ll introduce you to a company that is doing business in a way I think we can all be excited about.

Maggie's Organics

The most common response I hear when I start talking about trying to
make purchases in a way that is just and fair, is “yeah, but I’m sure
every company has problems if you look for it.” In other words, people
justify their choices by convincing themselves that everyone’s corrupt
so there’s no real point. We’ll I’m proud to say that you can point all
the Cynic’s to Maggie’s Organics. From the plant to your foot, every step of the clothing production and process is something to be proud of.

Maggie’s purchases their merchandise from Nueva Vida Women’s Sewing
Cooperative (COMAMNUVI), the world’s first WORKER-OWNED Free Trade
Zone. This isn’t just a big corporation out to make money in the name
of social responsibility, this is a genuine business, where the power
rests in the hands of those that matter most, the workers.

Their website says it all:

In Nicaragua there are many free trade zones where mainly women work in “sweat shops”, producing clothing under unacceptable labor conditions, long hours and low pay. In a cooperative,
the workers are the owners. We are working together to create
sustainable employment in the community so that we can support
ourselves and our families.

If your even more interested in how the cooperative came to be, I’d
encourage you to check out their video, Ants that Move Mountains, which
I made available on youtube (Ants 1 and 2).

Maggie’s Organics
is a great distributer and has most of the basics that everyone needs,
from socks to simple t-shirts. The neat thing is that there prices are
fairly reasonable too. You can buy t-shirts from $13 and score them on closeout for $10. Socks are more expensive then the sweatshop made ones, but I think the trade off is worth it.

When compared to companies with practices like Josh describes, a fair
trade cooperative, is clearly the best option out there. An interview
of a local worker at a major factory (possibly one operated by the company Josh discussed) and one at the coop shows some of the differences (pdf).
Everything from working conditions and wages, to paid time off and
vested interest in the product and company, it’s apparent that Maggie’s
Organics and the Nicaraguan Cooperative are doing some amazing things.

When it comes to the clothing industry I don’t think we can make
excuses about not doing what’s right. I see two options… Either buy
your clothing second-hand or buy it new from a fair trade company like Maggie’s Organics.

Sites for the Socially Conscience: NY Times

the NY Times ran a neat article about websites raising awareness for the socially conscience. Seems like folks had the same idea I have with Fair Consumers.

The main site they reference is dotherightthing.com which from what I can tell has a pretty neat interface. Basically users submit stories (mostly news stories) about organizations making positive or negative changes in the world. One of the stories I found on there is that Whole Food is the first major US company to convert all of its energy to green sources.

I think this will probably be a good resource for those readers who want to stay up on the news of companies doing social good in the world, but it isn’t so much a site to go and find links to wear to buy fair trade undies. Maybe there is still a niche for Fair Consumers (is that a dumb name?).

Chocolatey Goodness and Why I’m Avoiding It.

About three weeks ago I realize that I had been avoiding awareness on a topic that I know I had seen before: chocolate. Anyone who browses articles and info on fair trade has probably seen both tea and chocolate mentioned along side coffee as it relates to discussion on fair trade.
It’s been easy for me to boycott drinking non-fair trade coffee and tea, because I don’t drink tea and coffee anyways. What I had been avoiding is looking into the chocolate industry. Why? Because I like chocolate. But a brief inquiry, proved that if I was going to live my life in a way that keeps me from being involved directly in the injustice machine of consumerism, then I was going to have to stop eating chocolate.

It’s been harder then I thought. I don’t think about it very much, and in the first week I had mint chocolate chip ice cream, hot chocolate, and a chocolate donut without thinking twice, only to realize later that day. I’m getting better though. I also have a box of fair trade chocolate bars to help me slowly wean myself off and avoid major withdrawal symptoms.

I know Valentine’s day is coming soon, and that’s why I wanted to throw this topic out there before people do any major shopping over the weekend. If your thinking about Valentine’s gifts I would encourage you to think about fair trade as it relates to coffee, and conflict free as it relates to diamonds (that’s a whole different ball game).

If your looking for some more info on the Chocolate issue, I enjoyed this creative kid friendly book called:
Chaga and the Chocolate Factory (PDF)

Here are two other links:
Stop The Traffik

Global Exchange, Valentines Day Action