Friday, May 9, 2008

World Fair Trade Day 2008: Fair Trade + Ecology

Tomorrow is World Fair Trade Day, and this year's theme is “Fair Trade + Ecology”. It was first celebrated in 2005, and has taken place each year since, on the second Saturday in May.

Here's the wiki definition of fair trade:

Fair trade is an organized social movement and market-based approach to alleviating global poverty and promoting sustainability. The movement advocates the payment of a fair price as well as consciousness of social and environmental standards in areas related to the production of a wide variety of goods. It focuses in particular on exports from developing countries to developed countries, most notably handicrafts, coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit, and flowers.”

You can read more about it on IFAT's website, the organization that is an umbrella network for hundreds of fair trade organizations from all around the world.

So, what's so green about fair trade? There are several reasons that fair trade products can be greener than others, but here is the main one: Many fair trade products or materials are manufactured by local communities in developing countries, where resources and infrastructure are scarce, and continuous subsistence and livelihood are dependent on the sustained existence of these resources. Since the community in a fair trade setting is much more empowered than in an exploitative setting, it can often take positive action to make sure that its production practices do not irrevocably harm its surroundings.

For example, we can take fair trade rubber tapping in the Brazilian Amazon, conducted by local community co-ops that also stand against deforestation. Veja, is a French company that sources the rubber used to make it's line of fair-trade sneakers from such co-operatives. If the rain forest is destroyed, as is often the case with renegade logging operations, these tappers lose their livelihood and way of life. Fair Trade enables them to compete with rubber coming from big rubber tree plantations, and helps them keep the forests alive and flourishing.

But the thing I like best about the way Fair Trade and Environmentalism interact is that these are simply complimentary. They help one another but do not necessitate one another. Paying a fair living wage, and refraining from cutting down the rain forest are simply good things to do on their own, without any external or material incentives.

Yep, I'll celebrate that!

Eylon @ Eco-Libris

Plant a Tree for Every Book you Read!