Guest Post: My Fair Trade Journey (3 years on)

Monkey play!

In 2010 I made a commitment for one year to buy only products that were locally produced, second hand (charity NOT pawn broker) or Fair Trade.

When I published commitment this on Facebook I was actually quite surprised by the backlash I received.

Being the stubborn person I am this only made me more determined. Fortunately because I didn’t have to buy anything electronic that year I managed the year quite easily. Despite this most of the people I spoke to about it, while thinking it admirable, still thought it was too hard for them.

It certainly did take some additional research on my part and more planning ahead of time- which was actually also great for my budget because it made me think – do I REALLY need this?

At the time I also sought to make my research available to other people who might not have the time to do the research but who might be willing to make some changes if the information was available.

Thank you to those who gave me encouragement in this.

The recent tragedy in a sweatshop in Bangladesh has brought this issue to the attention of many more people. It is such a pity that it takes a something terrible like this to shine light on such an important issue but it is great to see so many more people now responding. If nothing else it makes me feel like less of a crazy hippie!

So what can we do to ensure that we are NOT supporting horrible human rights abuses like sweatshops?

1. Buy second-hand/ recycled/ free-cycled

Actually No.1 should probably be “Don’t Buy: Where possible reuse.” We have too much stuff already and we can’t just keep pulling new stuff out of the earth and dumping the used stuff forever!

If you must purchase then buying second hand from a charity shop has double benefit of recycling AND supporting the good work of the charity and the volunteers who run it. As someone who works with people at risk of poverty in Australia I would caution against supporting pawn brokers and those shops who are thinly disguised versions (i.e. Cash Converters) because I have seen the negative impact of these shops first hand.
Why not also join a local Freecycle network? I haven’t collected anything from Freecycle but I have given a whole bunch of stuff away that may have otherwise ended up in the hard rubbish.

2. Buy local

Where you cant (or won’t) buy second-hand (second hand tomatoes don’t sound great!) then where possible local is always best. In addition to our good labour laws this also has a positive environmental impact because your product hasn’t had to travel hundreds of kms to reach you with all the carbon cost associated with that travel. HOWEVER (why is there always a however) I personally cannot support locally grown sugarcottonrice or leather.

2. Buy Fair Trade

If you can’t recycle, up-cycle or buy local then buy Fair Trade Certified.

There are many companies that will claim ethical standards but for me it matters a lot if they are the ones who audit the “strict standards” or if they are getting independently audited. One of my colleagues lived for many years in China and said factories there were very good at cleaning up practises when sales reps came for a scheduled visit. Fair Trade certified products on the other hand can be audited without notice.

Also Fair Trade checks not just the factories but the whole supply chain! Many “ethical” factories get their cotton from farms which force workers into bonded labor (ie. slavery). And that’s what so good about Fair Trade because the WHOLE supply chain is checked from raw product the point of sale.

So how can you find this stuff?

So you’ve hit up your local Goodwill (you can even shop Salvos online now) and Oxfam shops and you’ve been to the local Farmers Markets and bought some great local food.

And for a list of your current favourite clothing brands that are sweatshop free: www.ethicalclothingaustralia.org.au

I know, there are SO few!

I also do a bit of ethical “pinning” that you can follow on Pinterest

So for those of you who are interested in supporting Fair Trade with more than just a change of coffee brand let me suggest that you take a look at the following sites. This list is in no way exclusive, I trawled through hundreds but what I was looking for in a site was basic stuff and easy to navigate sites. Product wise I looked for practical items that were not too “hippie” and sites that didn’t sell a whole lot of junk. So here it is:

And for those of you seeking Australian prices:

Please feel free to comment below if any of these links aren’t working or if you know of/ have found cool new ways to support recycling, fair trade, local etc.

Ps. I encourage you to watch this video: www.storyofstuff.org if you want to understand HOW sweatshops and slavery can even exist in the 21st century… it isn’t big bad guys out there who are responsible. It is you and I (www.slaveryfootprint.org)

So feel free to contribute to the list by leaving a comment below…

12 thoughts on “Guest Post: My Fair Trade Journey (3 years on)

  1. To be honest, my own efforts at shopping ‘Fair’ have been a bit on/off depending on what I’m looking for. It’s really good to see someone doing it well and I’ll be checking these shops out!

    Thanks, Jo!

  2. Pressure in the UK has meant that corporate giant Marks and Spencers has gone Fair Trade … so with the right pressure we could see the same with the likes of Target.

  3. I always try to buy second hand and local but sometimes you want something special – really looking forward to checking a lot of these out – great list!

    1. @sorellaandme:disqus – Thanks goes to Jo for putting the guest blog post. Great to see more Aussies getting into it to. Do you have any counterparts for guys or recommendations? It’s hard to find decent fair trade guys clothes.

      1. You’re right – unfort not a lot of guys stuff around at all.

        There is Kowtow (NZ) which has some beautiful pieces – http://www.kowtowclothing.com

        We are launching our men’s sleep & lounge line in the coming weeks after a lot of demand – so I guess there is a drive for it. But I am unsure why there wouldn’t be men’s designers keen to market everyday wear. I will keep an eye out and get back to you if I come across any others.

  4. Hi Ben this is a great list you’ve put together! I’d like to introduce Oz Fair Trade, my start up fair trade charity. I founded Oz Fair Trade after a life changing trip to Southeast Asia. I wanted to help those I met during the trip and I saw fair trade as a proven solution. Please check out http://www.ozfairtrade.org/ Cheers!

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