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The eco element of fair trade


Q: Is there anything eco about fair trade products? - Juliette, AZ

A:  Fair trade companies focus primarily on social sustainability, not environmental. But it's no big surprise that the two types of labels often get mixed up by people just testing the waters of conscientious consumerhood—green labels like USDA Organic and fair trade labels like Equal Exchange are both using consumers’ purchasing power to make the world a healthier place. But for the record, the Fair Trade Federation states: “Fair trade is a system of exchange that seeks to create greater equity and partnership in international trading systems by: paying fair wages in local context; supporting participatory workplaces; ensuring environmental sustainability [emphasis added]; supplying financial and technical support; offering public accountability; respecting cultural identity; building direct and long-term relationships; and educating consumer.” So while environmental sustainability is not the movement’s chief goal, fair trade principles do include eco advocacy. Greenies should feel good about choosing fair trade products.

Eco inquiries, conundrums, snafus? Write to askplenty@plentymag.com.