Fair Trade

Happy Halloween!!! Since today is filled with spooktacular fun and it is the last day of Fair Trade Month, we thought why not post something fun and celebratory! It’s been a great month long celebration of Fair Trade and hopefully will continue year round. But in case you want to celebrate both the creepy side of Halloween and Fair Trade Month, try out our Fair Trade cocktail: the Bloody-tini. The ingredients are Fair Trade and it’s blood red color is sure to give you a fright. MMMwaahahahah!

Fair Trade Bloody-tini

2 oz Fair Trade FAIR Quinoa Vodka
1 oz Fair Trade FAIR Goji Liquor 
1/2 oz Fair Trade Maine Root Lemonade
Garnish with slice of an organic blood orange

Fair Trade Wholesome Sweetners Sugar on the rim

On the rim of the glass, use a slice of blood orange to wet the outside of your martini glass rim. In a shallow bowl, pour Fair Trade sugar and set the rim of the glass on the sugar. Turn a few times and set glass aside. In a cocktail shaker combine the Fair Trade vodka, Fair Trade Goji Liquor, Fair Trade Lemonade, and ice and shake. Strain into your sugar rimmed martini glass. Garnish with a blood orange slice and serve. For added spookiness, use natural food dyes to dye the sugar red.

Today we are continuing our celebration of Fair Trade Month and the producers who create the lovely products sold by Autonomie with a tale of small community action.  Literally two days ago we launched a whole new product line: Fair Trade belts and jewelry produced by our Fair Trade partners: Proxy Apparel. On top of being Fair Trade, the accessories are all environmentally friendly. They use up-cycled materials such as soda can tabs, wrappers, and bar codes that would normally end up in landfills.  Not only are we excited to be carrying such beautiful pieces, but we are super inspired by the story behind the women who make the jewelry.

Unlike many of our other products, which are made with larger scale Fair Trade manufacturing, these Fair Trade accessories are made in a small women’s cooperative in Guatemala. The cooperative was founded by a small group of women who wanted to empower themselves in 1988. Living in community outside Guatemala City, many of these women were marginalized by their society, where men make up the majority of the workplace, and by decades of Civil War that finally ended in 1996. Because of these issues, many women found it hard to find work to support their families. So the founders of UPAVIN Cooperative decided to bring their sewing and jewelry making skills together to form a cooperative, where every member is an owner and every member has an equal vote.

The women in this co-op grew to become the 80 members they are today, spanning several small communities around Guatemala City.  Most of the women in the co-op have become the sole providers for their family and are making it possible for their children to go to school in order to better their lives and those of the community.  Because the cooperative members have equal say and pay, they are able to take care of their families and provide health care and child care for each members entire family.

Since the early days in 1988, UPAVIN has expanded their cooperative beyond jewelry and seamstress work. In addition to the jewelry their cooperative now provides the community with a craft business, local bakery, and a soy milk store. They also now run a small school and child care facility. 

UPAVIN is a clear example of how people can empower themselves as workers. They can band together as one unit and make Fair Trade a reality. By joining their skills they have created a democratic and safe place for their fellow members to work, opportunity for themselves and families, and strengthened their communities. This is true direct action of workers who want a better life for themselves and future generations. 

Although these cooperatives follow Fair Trade principles, they differ from many Fair Trade certified farms and factories around the world. Typically those farms and factories are still in the model of typical business, with owners or boards and many different pay scales. Many are unionized to include democratic practices and all adhere by Fair Trade standards of fair wages, safe work environments, fair hours, and benefits including health care, life insurance, and pensions. Cooperatives are on a much more grass-roots level but still follow the same principles. All members of cooperatives like UPAVIN receive fair wages and technically own the company!

So when you make the decision to support small community run cooperatives like UPAVIN, you are directly benefiting the craftswomen or men who made your product. The money goes directly to the producers and they decide what to do with it. What they’ve decided is to provide health care, child care, and education for their families and within their communities and beyond.


GIVEAWAY: In honor of October being Fair Trade Month, we are giving away a pair of our Fair Trade belts or jewelry! Head over to our Facebook to win a pair of the Proxy accessories our UPAVIN cooperative members produced! Our last Facebook status is a link to our blog. Enter our giveaway by sharing our blog post. Just hit “share” underneath our blog’s link on Facebook! Also, for the next week all UPAVIN made jewelry is on sale on our website!

Everybody loves to dress up for Halloween. Some choose something scary like vampires, witches, and black cats, while others choose fantasy like fairies and elves, while still others go for pop culture references. Whatever the costume, Halloween is always a fun time.  But is there a way to make Halloween a learning experience? Have you ever thought of a costume with a meaning? Since it is Fair Trade Month, we thought we’d come up with a few costume ideas that have a cause. The following are some fun ideas that are sure to get the party conversation started.

Costumes with a Cause

1) Fair Trade Logo:  Dress up as the Fair Trade Certified Logo. An easy way to do this would be to sew together a stretch suit of black and white. You can also carry two coffee mugs, one black, one white . And if you want to drive home the message, consider carrying a sign that says “Fair Trade Certified.” That way when people ask what you are, you can explain Fair Trade in general.

2) Fair Trade Farmer: Dress in some work clothes and a farming hat. Make sure to look healthy, happy, and well fed. You could also carry some farm tools and a sign with the Fair Trade logo on it. If someone says, “Oh you’re a farmer!” you can respond that you are actually a “Fair Trade farmer.”

3) Fair Trade Coffee: Probably the single most recognized Fair Trade product is coffee. Find a burlap sack or a large coffee bean bag and turn it into a dress. You can add coffee beans to the outside for extra effect and be sure to add the “Fair Trade Certified” logo!

4) Sweatshop Worker: In case you want to show what can happen without Fair Trade certification, dress up in your best interpretation of an overworked and underpaid sweatshop worker. Find some factory worker’s uniform. Be sure to put bags under your

eyes and dirty your clothes. You could even go barefoot for extra effect. Another great idea for a couple’s costume is for one to go as a sweatshop worker while the other goes as a happy Fair Trade farmer. You’ll be sure to get the party conversation started that way!

5) Fair Trade Head to Toe: Dress in Fair Trade clothing from head to toe and represent Fair Trade Month. You can find Fair Trade goods in almost everything from jewelry, hats, tees, pants, dresses, and even shoes!  When someone asks you what you are supposed to be, explain you are a walking example of Fair Trade Month!

As we are celebrating Fair Trade Month, it is important to recognize how many different Fair Trade products are now on the market. From Fair Trade vodka to sugar to shoes, it is easy to shop ethically and for your whole family. Autonomie Project carries a line of Fair Trade and organic Children’s and Baby clothes called Little Green Radicals. But just as any other Fair Trade product, the Little Green Radicals has a heartwarming behind the scenes story.

Assisi Garments produced our initial order of children and baby items called Little Green Radicals. Assisi is located in Tirupur, India, where due to society standards, women don’t have many options to provide for their families. Also, in India, as many places throughout the world, people with disabilities such as deaf or blind are often not employed. In walks, Assisi which was founded in the mid 1990’s by Franciscan Sisters. It began as a non-profit Fair Trade factory only employing deaf and dumb workers. They are part of the World Fair Trade Organization and use Fair Labeling Organization Certified cotton.

As Fair Trade and organic cotton demand increased, it grew to employ “300 underprivileged women and 120 physically challenged people,” a population that is largely ignored by society, businesses, and the government. The many workers and farmers of Assisi are paid a Fair Trade Premium, receive health care at community clinics, and are trained in Fair Trade benefits. The workers and farmers are fully informed what Fair Trade is and why it is important throughout the world.

Assisi also believes in their commitment to the physically challenged and uses profits from the clothing to run schools for the deaf across the country, retirement homes, orphanages, and a hospital specifically for leprosy, which is an issue in India. Recently, Assisi has also used the profits from Fair Trade cotton and clothing to build an Aids/HIV clinic and a cancer treatment facility in Northern India.

Purchasing a Little Green Radicals garment not only provides ethical work for otherwise ignored populations in India, but it promotes healthy organic cotton and funds amazing schools and hospitals for those suffering from serious diseases or disabilities. Assisi is providing a better life for their workers and farmers, and improving the education and quality of life for those who are normally shunned by society including lepers, orphans, and the terminally ill.  They are employing the “unemployable” and using the profits to better the entire society. These are truly your Fair Trade dollars at work.


GIVEAWAY: In honor of October being Fair Trade Month, we are giving away a Little Green Radicals item! Head over to our Facebook to win a children’s or baby garment our Assisi Fair Trade workers produced! Our last Facebook status is a link to our blog. Enter our giveaway by sharing our blog post. Just hit “share” underneath our blog’s link on Facebook! Also, be sure to check the website for a special discount on Fair Trade Children’s Clothing!

October is here and Fair Trade Month is officially in high gear! The idea behind Fair Trade Month is to both celebrate and raise awareness for Fair Trade. In the United States, there are literally thousands of educational events, parties, promotions, and sales going on the entire month. So how do you get involved? What is the best way an ethical shopper to enjoy the month? We have put  together a short list of the best ways to celebrate Fair Trade Month!

1) Promote Fair Trade: In our 21st Century world, one of the easiest ways to bring awareness to a topic is to use social media. During the whole month, use your Twitter, Facebook, and other sites to spread the word! There are tons of great resources to share such as Fair Trade Resource Network and Fair Trade USA,  or even mention or post pictures of some of your favorite Fair Trade products! Be sure to use hashtags such as #FairTradeMonth and #FairTrade.

2) Give Fair Trade: Maybe you have some birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, or baby showers coming up or maybe you want to get a head start on holiday shopping. Either way, when you are purchasing a gift this month, make sure it is Fair Trade. This is a perfect opportunity to give your loved ones quality gifts and educate them on what Fair Trade means. We recommend including information with your gift. Some places to find Fair Trade goods are Global Exchange, World of Good, Ten Thousand Villages, and of course Autonomie! Speaking of Autonomie, we are featuring different producers all month long and have special week long sales, as well as giveaways. Check our Facebook on how to enter.

3) Get Involved: If you want to really bring awareness to Fair Trade, get involved in your community or school. Did you know cities and universities can become Fair Trade Towns and Universities?! Check out Fair Trade USA’s programs Fair Trade Towns and Fair Trade University for more details. If you community doesn’t have an initiative already going, start one yourself. Another great way to bring Fair Trade to your community is to talk with business owners about carrying Fair Trade items. Talk with your local grocery stores, natural food stores, cafes, restaurants, and retail stores about the growing need for ethical items.

4) Party, Party, Party: Since it is October and Halloween ends the month, why not party, Fair Trade style. Plan out a Fair Trade themed costume, hand out Fair Trade chocolate, and serve Fair Trade treats and alcohol. Luckily, there is wonderful Fair Trade vodka and wine these days! Send out Fair Trade Month with a bang and truly celebrate all that is Fair Trade. Your guests will be impressed with an educational and ethical Halloween!

For more great ideas on how to celebrate Fair Trade Month, check out Fair Trade USA’s Top Ten! Happy Fair Trade Month!

In 2003, Nasir Javed was 30 years old. He had a great job at Talon Fair Trade Factory, where Autonomie Project’s Ethletic products are produced. He was the co-coordinator for the Soccer department and was raising a family with his wife.  Because he was working for a Fair Trade factory, he knew his kids would be able to attend school in order to ensure professional jobs for their future.

One afternoon in April, everything changed. Nasir, his father, brother, and cousin were on their way home. Suddenly, their bus collided with a tractor.  Luckily there were no fatalities, but all of Nasir’s relatives sustained injuries ranging from a broken legs to shoulders. Nasir had been seated next to the bus driver and experienced the most damage.  Not only did both his legs break, but he sustained internal injuries and bleeding.

The company bus immediately transported Nasir to a hospital in Daska, as the community medical center was not equipped to cure his injuries. Since Nasir worked for the Fair Trade factory, Talon, all his medical expenses as well as his relatives who were in the crash were covered by the company. As a part of working for Talon, the workers and their families receive medical treatment free of charge at the shop clinic and more intense issues, such as Nasir’s are paid for at a lager hospital.

Nasir’s injuries were dangerous and luckily the company bus transported him to a better trained hospital, otherwise his internal injuries may have gone unnoticed. On top of paying for Nasir’s treatment, he received 100% of his wages for the time he was an invalid.  The wages were paid 50% by the Talon factory and 50% by the Worker’s Welfare Fund. The Welfare Fund is an account were extra profits from producing Fair Trade Footwear are placed. The workers at Talon then appoint a manager for the funds and vote what to do with them such as building the health clinic in the first place.  The funds are also used to help employees in a time of need, such as Nasir’s. 

After many surgeries and blood transfusions, blood donated by other workers in the factory, Nasir learned that he may never be able to walk. Talon and the extra Fair Trade funds paid for the best medical care in Pakistan. But after experiencing another accident, a fall, Nasir was told had to have his leg amputated. During this time, Nasir, unfortunately decided to retire from the Talon factory.

But in 2010, Nasir’s children Zara, 8 and Umar, 11 were in school. Nasir hoped a well educated life for them and wanted to return to work. He decided to go back to the Talon factory so his children could continue their education and have full health benefits. Nasir was welcomed back to Talon with open arms and was promoted to the Compliance Assistant Manager. Even better, his colleagues at the factory elected him the Manager of the Worker’s Welfare Fund. Now he helps others, the way he was helped.

An accident could have taken Nasir’s life and livelihood. But due to the Fair Trade funds, Nasir and his relatives who were injured  received the best possible care and months of being in the hospital didn’t cost Nasir a thing. His family still received his wages. Even though he chose to retire for awhile, especially after his second accident, Nasir then chose to go back to work. He was promoted and became the manager of extra Fair Trade funds that benefit all the workers directly! 

Now his daughter Zara is excelling in school and is planning on becoming a teacher and her brother, Umar has dreams of being a solider or kite flyer. They can live their dreams with their Father by their side, thanks to Fair Trade. 


Madhara Dulanjali is 10 years old and lives on the Frocester Rubber Estate in Horana, which is located in the western province of Sri Lanka. Her great-grandparents worked as rubber tappers at this estate, and her father and mother – Vijararatnam and Kumari – both started working as tappers in 1995.

Madhara and her family are part of the so-called “plantation Tamils,” which is a term for those whose ancestors had been brought to work in Sri Lanka by the British colonial administration more than 100 years ago. For almost a century this meant no citizenship or the right to vote. After some tumultuous times most of the Tamils were granted citizenship at the end of the Twentieth Century. However, socially and economically, they continue to be ignored in their country.

In their little town of Horana, Madhara’s family had been trying to get the State to provide electricity. However, considering their political status, it was unlikely to happen. Furthermore, the cost of the electricity extension is so high, it would never have been supported from public funds. 52 families live in the same town as Madhara and her family, all have been living without electricity.

However, this March, these 52 families no longer had to worry about their kids doing homework in the dark. This plantation works under Fair Deal Trading, a Fair Trade company that produces Autonomie Project’s Ethletic flip flops, rubber boots, and rubber sneakers.

As workers of Fair Trade, they not only receive higher premium wages, but  additional profits from the rubber sales are placed in a Fair Trade Premium account that the workers themselves control and vote on how to use the funds. The 52 families knew exactly what to do with the $33,197 in Fair Trade premiums they earned from all the rubber they produced last year: electricity!

Fair Deal Trading paid the Fair Trade premiums, and today Madhara, her family, and 52 other families have electricity in their homes!!

As Madhara’s family fought to bring electricity to their town, her parents enrolled her into a school that teaches in Sinhala, the language spoken by the majority ethnic group in Sri Lanka, in order to have a better chance for the future beyond rubber tapping.

Now with electricity, the children’s school uniforms can be ironed instead of the usual way, which was folding them under their pillow overnight to “press” it. Two other things they welcomed warmly into their towns: refrigerators and television!

Most importantly, Madhara and her classmates are now able to do their homework after dark without ruining their eyes. This allows them to do even better at school, and making it unlikely that she, or her brother and sister, will become the 4th generation of rubber tappers.


GIVEAWAY: Head over to our Facebook to win a pair of the flip flops our Horana rubber tappers produced! Our last Facebook status is a link to our blog. Enter our giveaway by sharing our blog post. Just hit “share” underneath our blog’s link on Facebook! Also, be sure to check the website for a special discount on Fair Trade Flip Flops.

In case you haven’t heard, October is Fair Trade! Every year the Fair Trade community raises awareness and celebrates all that is Fair Trade for the entire month of October. This year, Autonomie is excited about celebrating one of our key ethical missions: Fair Trade and we have some exciting promotions coming up!

This year, we wanted to bring Fair Trade back to its roots: the workers, the farmers, and the artisans. Who are they and how does your purchases really affect them? That’s why for the entire month of October we will be featuring stories on the producers for our products including the sneakers, flip flops, and Little Green Radical children’s wear. Each of the four weeks of October, we will feature a specific producer story for one of these products on our blog. We will also be posting pictures of the producers on our Facebook during the entire week.

But here is where you come in! When you see either the blog or album posted to our Facebook, share our post with your friends by choosing the “Share” option under our post! We will choose one lucky winner who shares the producer’s stories to win one of the featured products of that week. You read that right, free Fair Trade goodies for spreading the word.

We will also be holding a special sale for the entire week on the products the producer of the week created such as onesies, children’s dresses, flip flops, or sneakers! Not only will you have a chance to see how your AP purchases make an impact on Fair Trade, but also score some great discounted Fair Trade threads and possibly win a free AP Fair Trade item!

Also be on the lookout for exciting new Fair Trade and ethical products launching mid month. You will want to be the first to know about these.

Be sure to keep up to date on our blog and Facebook all month long to learn how Autonomie and your purchases affect the lives of the workers who produce them. After all, Fair Trade is all about giving them autonomy.

Rumors swirling the debut of the iPhone 5 have been circulating for the past several months and as a current iPhone user, I am tempted, like most others, to get my hands on one.  Smartphones, particularly the iPhone have become an aspect of everyday life for many in America.  But at what cost? In recent reports and some articles published by AP and the likes, reveal that there are many costs that come with the iPhone. 

The problem starts with minerals.  In order to make your smartphone to work as seamlessly as we all love, they are manufactured with three basic minerals: tin, tantulum, and tungsten. This sounds normal, but here’s the kicker. Those minerals are often mined in the conflict ridden Democratic Republic of Congo. Serious labor and human rights violations are occurring in order to mine these minerals, including civil war and flat out murder.

But unfortunately in the life of the iPhone the violations dont’ stop there.  Apple has recently been accused of terrible labor issues surrounding the manufacturing of their products including computers, iPads, and iPhones. Some of these issues include overworked employees, suicide of employees, and even child labor. 

Those things alone are enough to make the consumer ill, but on top of labor issues, smartphones are made with materials that are far less than environmentally friendly.  Recent reports have come out showing Apple factories release harmful toxins into water, soil, and the air we breathe, not to mention all the plastic that is used to create the phones in the first place.

And just when you think you can’t handle the guilt anymore, Grist recently ran an article about an iPhone game that “will make you ashamed of your iPhone.”  The game features four main levels: mining materials in the Congo, including mistreating workers and adding to civil war, saving possible suicide victims at manufacturing plants in China, drumming up excitement among consumers, and throwing out the iPhone and adding to wastefulness. Check out a preview for this game below.

Don’t think we’ve singled out the iPhone alone. All brands smartphones and other electronics used mined minerals from the Congo and many have similar labor and environmental issues in the manufacturing process. So what is the answer? Well, obviously giving up the convenience of said electronics would eliminate all these violations in the supply chain.  But in our modern world, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. One step is to use your current model as long as possible, do you really need to upgrade to the iPhone 5 just because Apple said it is better? Another way to go would be to purchase used and refurbished phones, thus saving them from landfills and not adding to new manufacturing. Lastly, be sure to recycle your phone when it is finally ready to upgrade.

So to answer our opening question, yes we all should be ashamed of our iPhones. And the only way to change it, is to let Apple and other smartphone manufactures we won’t stand for it! Write them today and stop purchasing their brand new items!

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