The market for fair trade products has gone up steadily every year, with 2011 being a banner year for fair trade companies. This is especially true in the UK, where people buy more fair trade products than anywhere else in the world. Due to this explosion in popularity, it is becoming much easier to find these products without going to specialty stores. However, some stores are still better than others for fair trade shopping.
Specialty Fair Trade Retailers
A wide variety of fair trade products are available from specialty retailers. You will generally find these retailers online, but you can also find them in your local area. Online fair trade retailers will almost always have the greatest selection of fair trade goods.
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Latitudes Fair Trade Store
Latitudes Fair Trade Store specializes in crafts from around the world. This can be anything from scarves to traditional wood carvings. One of the great draws of Latitudes is the fact that all of their products are made by locals that utilize traditional techniques or designs. This means that customers have access to fair trade goods that are also unique and traditional.
GrassRoots is a store in Anchorage, Alaska, that specializes in fair trade goods. The store is run by Jill Dean, who was actively involved with fair trade culture for years, but didn't open the store until 2007. They have a number of unique gifts and crafts that have both an artistic and practical flair. At their Anchorage location, they sell just about anything you can imagine from kitchen supplies to home decor. They sell jewelry and body care products through their wholesale department.
Global Exchange is unique on this list because it is actually a registered 501(c)3 non-profit in the United States. Its mission is to spread social, economic, and environmental justice in the countries it operates. A major part of this goal is met through their fair trade program, where local artisans have the opportunity to sell their goods to a large pool of clients. Global Exchange has a number of different locations throughout the United States, but it also has a very active online store. At locations, you can find everything from fair trade chocolate to fair trade shirts. Through the online store, you can access a broad range of goods with varying rates of shipping.
Ten Thousand Villages
Ten Thousand Villages is an extremely active member of the fair trade community. It is one of the largest fair trade organizations in the world, and is also a founding member of the World Fair Trade Organization. The organization has grown from a store in the back of Edna Ruth Byler's car in 1946 to a thriving international community of artisans today. Ten Thousand Villages specializes in exquisitely detailed crafts from around the world. These are heirloom-quality decorations, dishes, clothes, rugs, and other types of crafts.
Green Heart is the fair trade version of the ubiquitous online gift store. It started in 1985 when founder Emanuel Kuntzelman began the non-profit "Center for Cultural Interchange" in Chicago. "Greenheart" started as a fair trade initiative through the Center for Cultural Interchange, and then developed into the premier fair trade store in Chicago. Now, it serves a worldwide community of conscientious shoppers as they search for fair trade goods. People can find fair trade gifts for any type of personality using the online store here.
Large Retailers with Fair Trade Products
These days, you don't even need to go to a specialty retailer to find fair trade products. You can find a number of these products being sold at generic retailers and even large restaurant chains across the country
Fair Trade Coffee
Starbucks is one of the largest coffee chains in the world. The company is a leader in fair management principles, sustainable food sourcing, and sustainable packaging. It also offers its customers fair trade coffee options, such as the Cafe Estima blend. The blend is 100% Fair Trade Certified and is very popular. Dunkin Donuts is another large coffee shop offering fair trade products. In fact, any espresso drink made here is made with 100% Fair Trade Certified coffee.
There are also large grocery stores selling fair trade coffee products as part of their normal line of company-branded items. For example, Costco sells Kirkland Signature, Safeway sells Seattle's Best, and even Walmart sells its own brand of fair trade coffee.
Fair Trade Groceries
Large grocery chains in the UK and the US sell a wide range of fair trade products. In the UK, Sainsbury's is known as the largest retailer of fair trade goods in the world. In the U.S., retailers like the following are known for their great variety of fair trade foods:
- Market of Choice offers fair trade coffee and a wide range of fair trade chocolate.
- Wegmans offers fair trade home crafts and kitchen ware. They also have fair trade coffee.
- Whole Foods has their own fair trade program called "Whole Trade". The program is meant as a guarantee that Whole Foods does not carry products that aren't sustainably produced by people who are treated humanely and paid a fair wage.
Fair Trade Gifts
Macy's doesn't have an extensive line of fair trade gifts, but they do carry fair trade gifts from a few different organizations in their online store. Baskets, vases, and other crafts are available from Rwanda Baskets and Heart of Haiti through the online store at Macy's.
Fred Meyer is a large department store in the Pacific Northwest that offers a huge range of fair trade coffees. However, there are also many fair trade crafts and gifts available in their many locations, too.
Fair Trade Shopping Tips
As with any type of green living or responsible living trend, fair trade is being used by both responsible retailers and those looking to capitalize on the good intentions of others. It's a sad reality, but you must be on the lookout for reputable dealers whenever you look into fair trade shopping. Some great tips to keep in mind are:
- Always look for certification symbols like Fair Trade Certified or something similar. Once you find the symbol, do some research on the fair trade organization that operates under that symbol.
- Use educational resources like the Fair Trade Resource Network while you are looking for fair trade goods.
- Look up the company or product online and see what information there is out there about that specific product.
Responsible Shopping at Its Best
In the end, buying fair trade items may be a little more expensive. However, the act of buying these products doesn't have as much to do with the financial implications as it does with the moral implications. When you buy fair trade products, you are ensuring that people are treated fairly, paid a fair wage, and not taken advantage of by big businesses. This alone is enough to make some people always look for fair trade products.