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You may have seen the phrase "Fair trade" before when you've been shopping. Most people have seen it stamped on coffee bags and chocolate bars, but you may not know what it really means.
The Fair Trade Certification seal refers to "a global movement made up of a diverse network of producers, companies, consumers, advocates, and organizations putting people and planet first.”
What this breaks down to is that all companies that are in the Fair Trade network have as their major goal to empower individuals in impoverished communities to create stunning products or food items from eco-friendly and sustainable resources.
When you purchase a fair trade item, you are supporting those companies, making a difference in the lives of the individuals that created those products, and helping to protect our environment.
Any purchase you make from these companies should make you feel good about that decision because it’s not just a marketing ploy.
Any item stamped with the Fair trade Certified seal has to meet rigorous standards which can take anywhere from six to nine months to achieve.
Those standards are industry-specific, but the universal standards require that every local community is individually benefitted.
This can mean that, on top of working wages, individuals might receive health insurance, subsidized food, and childcare, among other minimums of care like properly safe and sanitary working conditions.
We here at Bonsai & Bear have allied with members of the Fair trade Federation to bring you beautiful pieces that you cannot find anywhere else.
When you purchase any of our pieces, you are helping those individuals be lifted out of abject poverty.
We pride ourselves on selling products that you will love and help those living in marginalized communities.
Here are five reasons why you should buy certified fair trade products:
1. Fair trade protects children.
Across the world, children work long hours in unsafe conditions to create some of the products you purchase and use on a daily basis.
From tobacco farming to gold mining, over 70 million children are exploited and constantly put at risk of becoming seriously ill, injured, or damaged, or losing their lives.
When you purchase a fair trade item, you are supporting companies and organizations that do not allow child labor in any way.
Further, some of these companies also offer benefits to the children in the local communities they serve. Bonsai & Bear sells products from dZi Inc., which provides free and low cost elementary school education to the local children.
These children are not exploited for slave labor, and they have the opportunity to get an education. Neither would it be possible without the fair trade federation.
2. Fair trade protects workers.
In order for an item to receive the Fair Trade Certified seal, the workers must work in safe and humane conditions.
More than 2 billion people do not have regular access to clean drinking water, and Fair trade companies are also required to provide clean drinking water to their workers as well as sanitary facilities.
On top of that, all workers are given sustainable wages to help support them and their families.
These workers can also join a local trade union and are able to negotiate their wages and working conditions to their betterment.
These workers can literally be lifted out of poverty because of these jobs/partnerships.
Companies like Asha Handicrafts, which Bonsai & Bear sells, helped stop their fabric, woodcarving, and carpet artisans from working in unsafe conditions and from being exploited by large producers and moneylenders in Mumbai, India.
Nobunto provides jobs to individuals in Napier, South Africa, a small village outside of Cape Town, which has an unemployment rate of 50%.
3. Fair trade protects women.
Beyond helping workers overall, that fair trade certification also greatly helps women specifically.
More than half of the world’s poor are women. This is due to the fact that women are globally paid less than men, do twice as much domestic and childcare (aka unpaid) work than men, and often lack job opportunities in their areas.
Many women are “homeworkers” because their husbands may not allow them to work outside of their home, they may be the only ones who can care for their children, and/or the surrounding areas may be unsafe/violent for women.
Crafting or other artisanal options are therefore ideal for these women.
They can do them to help provide for their families within the safety and comfort of their homes while also taking care of their children as needed.
Many fair trade organizations specifically target the empowerment of women.
Bonsai & Bear sells products from The Starfish Project, which has an amazing program to help women specifically.
Beyond teaching them how to create jewelry and helping them earn a sustainable income, these women are also provided with “healthcare, shelter, counseling and education grants.”
Through further vocational training, these women can later learn to “become managers, accountants, graphic designers, and photographers.”
When women are lifted out of poverty, when the gender gap is greatly lessened or nullified, the families of those women benefit the most.
So when you purchase a fair trade item, especially from a company or organization that caters specifically to the empowerment of women, you are helping whole families across the world.
4. Fair trade protects you.
You would be likely horrified to learn how many products are awash with toxic chemicals, either from pesticides, fertilizers, or cleaning agents.
Food items too may have been exposed to mold, bacteria, or diseases.
Fair trade companies and organizations use little to no amounts of chemicals in the creation of their products.
Further, all items (such as coffee and chocolate) are not genetically engineered in any way and are kept free from mold, bacteria, and diseases.
Fair trade Certified items also have fair prices.
You pay a reasonable, or fair, amount. You are in no way ripped off.
The price you pay is enough for the companies to be able to support their efforts as well as provide a sustainable wage to their workers.
5. Fair trade protects the environment.
All fair trade food is sustainably sourced, and all items are made from eco-friendly and sustainable resources.
This is a key part of the Fair trade standards.
Every farmer and fisherman is trained on environment-friendly best practices, and artisans are encouraged to use byproducts that would usually be tossed to create their stunning items.
Climate change is a reality and a problem, especially for those living in impoverished areas with little access to clean drinking water.
Protecting the environment and ensuring sustainable production helps those villages and communities protect their areas and homes for generations to come.
Here at Bonsai & Bear, the companies whose products we sell do so much for the environment in their specific areas.
Esther Kariuki , both a brand and the name of the founder, teaches the women in her village how to use the dried fiber of the banana plant, which is normally discarded in production, to create many different items, including boxes and mobiles.
The artisans of Gitzell Imports subsidize their income from subsistence farming by weaving beautiful baskets from banana leaf.
Bawa Hope creates bags using sisal and waste banana fibers.
Jedando Handicrafts carves items from wood that is abundant in their area as well as discarded animal bones.
6. Fair trade protects culture.
One negative of globalization is that beautifully unique cultures can lose what makes them special by assimilating.
Cultural diversity is what makes our world an amazing place, and every culture should be honored and celebrated for what makes it unique and special.
Since the local farmers and artisans for every Fair Trade company/organization are directly connected to every aspect of the growth and production of the items that are eventually sold, Fair Trade products accurately reflect that diversity and celebrate its uniqueness.
Every Fair trade item you purchase is painstakingly crafted by hand. Every fair trade item is one-of-a-kind, works of art that are made of the highest quality.
That’s hard to imagine with how much production is commercialized here in the U.S. and beyond, but it’s absolutely true for every item listed on our website and every item with a Fair Trade Certified seal.
When you consciously choose to buy a Fair Trade Certified item, you get so much more than a beautiful product made with no damaging chemicals and free from mold, bacteria, and diseases.
You get the opportunity to make sure children don’t get brain damage from working around toxic chemicals or losing their lives in gold mines.
You can actually help them get the education they need to succeed.
You get to make sure workers around the world get treated humanely, that they get clean drinking water and other sanitary options we take so easily for granted here.
You get to make sure women are not exploited or trafficked and can learn lifelong skills and earn sustainable wages to support themselves and their families.
When you buy Fair Trade Certified items, you actually ARE making a difference.