If the phrase "fair trade" brings to mind artisanal chocolate, fancy coffee, and toothy-grinned portraits of farmers in countries that can barely be found on a map, you're not alone. However, the range of fair trade products available in local stores (even "big-box" ones) is expanding beyond the produce aisle and breaking away from its hippies-only market in exciting ways that we can all get behind. Next time you run errands or stock your pantry, consider making a few simple swaps for the Fair Trade version of things you are probably already buying. When you buy fair trade, you're not only casting your vote for supporting small businesses and communities around the world, you're valuing transparency in farming and manufacturing processes, making a commitment to producing less junk in the world, and investing in products that are simply better for you and the earth. It's like a win, win, win, win... win!
A Dozen Easy Fair "Trades" to Make Today:
1. Honey - with the honey bee shortage over the last decade, it's more important than ever that we support organic, fair trade, and local bee keepers as much as possible. Depending on where you live, you may be able to find honey produced in your own neighborhood, but if honey is on your list of things to pick up next time you head to the grocery store, bee sure to support a brand dedicated to sustainable harvesting practices, like glory bee honey.
2. Raw cane sugar - despite how sweet sugar tastes, the harvesting process can get pretty nasty. At harvest time, sugar cane fields are burned to remove the outter greenery and waxy coating on the canes, releasing thick black smoke into the air. The process of harvesting the cane sustainably is tedious and costly so most large farms use machinery to process the crop. When you buy fair trade sugar you are not only providing jobs and income to communities in need, you are supporting sustainable farming practices and the planting of new trees and crops that can thrive in the freshly harvested cane fields. Try alter eco mascobado sugar.
3. Coconut oil - if there's anything coconuts can't do, we haven't found it yet. This odd fruit (nut?) is popping up in everything from baking ingredients (see 12.) to beauty products and just about everywhere in between. One of the best uses for coconut oil is for cooking, as an alternative to traditional olive or canola oil. 85% of coconuts are grown in the Philippines, with the other 15% sourced from India and Sri Lanka. Fair trade coconut products help ensure a better quality of life for farmers in countries and regions like these with high poverty levels. Consider Maison Orphee raw virgin coconut oil.
4. Herbal tea - Like coconuts, many of the world's most precious and edible herbs and spices are grown in areas of the world that are subject to harsh conditions, economically and environmentally. There is little-to-no price difference in fair trade vs. conventional teas, so this is an easy swap to make. Just look for the Fair Trade certification on the box or label and sip away. One of our faves, Celestial Seasonings Chamomile Tea.
5. Snack bars - There is a good chance we wouldn't be here today without the power of Larabars, our favorite "raw" food snack bar. These have always been our snack of choice in lecture halls, commutes, road trips, and long flights. At first, the idea of these being "raw" was a little sketchy, but the ingredients are so simple (this one has just four ingredients!) and delicious, we were instant fans.
6. Castille soap - If you have never used Dr. Bronner's fair trade and totally natural pure castille soap, just ask your nearest hippie which of its 18 magical uses is their favorite. From cleaning the floors to body wash to doing the dishes, this chemical-free concentrate is about as all-purpose as one product can get.
7. Granola - If you've ever wanted dessert for breakfast, you're in luck, because this fair trade granola is packed full of fair trade dark chocolate chunks to give your morning an extra boost. Sprinkle over yogurt or snack from the bag, and feel good about supporting a product that nurtures your body and the earth!
8. Rice - when we think of GMO's and pesticide-treated crops, corn, wheat, and soybeans may come to mind, but high levels of insecticides, herbicides, and even arsenic are found in major rice growing regions around the world. Unfortunately, due to existing levels of chemicals (from decades of heavy pesticide use on crops such as cotton) in the soil and water where rice grows, even organic rice can have trace amounts of these toxic chemicals. Although organic farmers are already doing their best to eliminate toxic chemicals in their rice crops, fair trade organizations are taking it one step further. Better health care systems and safety regulations are helping to reduce or eliminate birth defects and deaths in children and adults exposed to pesticides, education programs in schools and communities are stressing the importance of sustainable farming practices, and better facilities and equipment are increasing profitability. Try one of the heirloom varieties of alter eco rice.
9. Quick Quinoa - healthy, flavorful, straight from the box into a pot and ready in just 15 minutes, this quinoa is a super easy side dish to add to any meal. Even more delicious is the fact that fair trade quinoa helps support sustainable farming practices and helps build more efficient and economically empowered communities! Try one of these fair trade flavors from Near East.
10. Chai tea concentrate - get ready to want to Instagram the heck out of yourself sipping a creamy, steamy cup of fair trade chai tea. This pre-made mix is soy free, dairy free, and gluten free, which means only the good stuff is left- fair trade black tea and spices, for a perfectly cozy treat without the line, or the attitude, at your coolest local coffee shop. Jk, we would totally be at the coffee shop everyday if we could. But this is a really good plan "B" for "budget". Try this one by Pacific foods.
11. Cookies, cookies, cookies! - Finding fair trade dessert is hardly a problem, even big chain grocery stores now have a display dedicated to fancy chocolate bars with thinks like gold flakes and rose essence, but if you just want a simple, easy snack, like a good ol' box of cookies, try these by Jovial. Fair trade, organic, and under five bucks. Sorry, not sorry.
12. Coconut flour - Whether gluten-free is already part of your diet vocab or you are simply curious about trying an alternative to grain-based flour, coconut is here once again to save the day. We've already mentioned coconut's versatility, likely unmatched by any other single crop, but this flour alternative is not only a great substitute for baking, it is also organically and sustainably produced. It may just make those holiday treats that much sweeter. Try Arrowhead Mills coconut flour.
13. Fresh flowers! - When we said "dozen" we really meant a baker's dozen because we certainly couldn't leave out the prettiest fair trade products out there, fresh cut flowers! Flowers are one of the biggest imports from South America and Africa, and since 2007, over 20 million fair trade stems have made their way into bouquets around the world. In an industry that is mostly dominated by men, fair trade farms employ and empower female workers who are able to provide for their families and communities. We already give flowers as a way of showing someone that we care about them, why not show the farmers we care about them too! Find fair trade certified flowers at your local Whole Foods market or order online.
We hope this list will help you to make a few easy fair "trades" for products you already use next time to head to the store. We think there's a good chance you'll even find a new favorite treat!