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What is Fair Trade?

Fair Trade businesses are companies that seek to provide a safe working environment and adequate pay for their employees. Fair Trade means buying and selling products that make certain the people who produce the goods, and everyone in the supply chain, are receiving a fair wage.

There are many companies who exist to provide a safe and ethical working environment for their workers. These businesses are called social enterprises or fair trade certified companies. You can find these companies by looking for the Fair Trade Certification label on products in your local grocery store. When we purchase from companies that have unfair labor practices, we are contributing to the labor trafficking and possible sex trafficking of the garment workers. Many survivors of labor exploitation have shared that they would rather work in the sex industry than in the garment industry because of how poor the conditions are in the factories. As justice seekers, we must support companies that are advocating for those most vulnerable to sex and labor trafficking.

Feeling intimidated yet?? I was right there with you about five years ago, and I learned the importance of not attempting to reinvent your life/shopping habits all at once; new habits aren’t likely to last if you try too many at once. We need a sustainable approach to sustainability. I would like to note that the most sustainable thing we can do is wear/use things that already exist. Making a purchase should be our last resort. In January 2021, I challenged myself not to buy anything for the entire year. I wanted to encourage myself to come up with creative ways to get the things I needed without buying them. I also asked to borrow items I lacked from friends. More times than not, they had an extra lying around and were happy to give it to me. While this was an extreme challenge and it was not sustainable for me to do forever, it put me in the right direction to lead an ethical lifestyle. Here are some quick tips and tricks to help you jumpstart your sustainability journey. Pick a few and see how they work for you!

  1. Value & take care of the products you already own. This means taking time to fold our clothes instead of tossing them on the floor, or putting on our shoes all the way instead of slipping them on and wearing out the back. There are many habits we can change in order to protect the products we already own.

  2. Borrow when you can. Borrowing is not only more ethical, but it also encourages community. There are many products that we do not need to own and can simply borrow or share with someone. My favorite things to share are large kitchen appliances and books. This lessens clutter in our homes, saves us money, creates community, and leads to a more sustainable lifestyle.

  3. Swap clothes with friends. I cannot be the only one who gets tired of their closet once in a while. So instead of buying a new wardrobe, I set a few things aside and ask my friends if they want to trade for anything. This takes away the need for purchasing new clothing and spices up our wardrobe at the same time!

  4. Shop secondhand before buying new. While thrift stores are a blast and I absolutely love shopping there, if I am looking for something specific, it is a gamble as to if I will find the exact item at a thrift store. Facebook Marketplace, Offer-Up, Mercari, and Poshmark are all good options to find specific items secondhand.

  5. Make/Mend when possible. In my “No Buy Year, I learned how to make a wide variety of items including: candles, underwear, reusable bags, beeswax wraps, loose leaf tea and more! Even though making these items took me longer than it would have taken to simply go to the store, it was more sustainable because I knew the labor was fair and I, for the most part, only used craft supplies I already owned.

  6. Buy Fair Trade or Handmade. Purchasing something new should be our last option when we have a need. When we find ourselves in that situation, we need to make sure we are shopping responsibly. That means purchasing from companies that we know take care of their employees or shopping directly from the maker themselves. There are several Fair Trade Certifications out there including Fair Trade International, Fair Trade Certified, World Fair Trade Organization, Fair Trade Federation and more. Familiarize yourself with what these labels look like so that you will be able to recognize them when you look for them on products. To buy directly from makers, you can look for small businesses on Instagram, check out your local farmer’s market or maker’s market, or shop on Etsy.

I hope these ideas are helpful for you in your sustainability journey. Remember to be gentle with yourself in this process as it is not easy and if done too quickly, can lead to burnout. Just reading this article is an incredible first step! You are already headed in the right direction! Let’s continue to help make our world a safer place to work, therefore a safer place to live.


What do you think of these tips? Does one of them feel more achievable than another?

Please share your thoughts or recommendations! We would love to hear from a fellow Changemaker.


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