Yesterday, it seemed many people’s spirits were broken by the midterm elections, but we were happy to receive this uplifting email from Green America. So we decided to re-post it here, feel free to leave your comments on how you are staying hopeful!

Re-posted from Green America:


No matter what your hopes were for Tuesday’s election, one outcome that we’re all too likely to see is political gridlock.

That makes the work we do together — advancing social justice and environmental responsibility through economic action — more important than ever. Here are just a few examples:

1. By working to close the filthiest coal-fired power plants, we can work to meet our climate goals — without one new piece of legislation.

2. By creating Clean Energy Victory Bonds, we can finance the next big wave of solar and wind — without one penny of taxpayer dollars.

3. By focusing on energy efficiency, we can help every American family save hundreds or thousands of dollars a year — better than a tax break, since it will happen year after year with no Congressional vote required.

4. By accelerating the transition to clean energy, we ensure the next big wave of good jobs.

5. By going local and organic with our food, and rebuilding local food systems, we can make sure there is healthy, affordable food for all.

6. By choosing Fair Trade, we can help families around the world lift themselves out of poverty.

7. By switching to community banks and credit unions, we can take support away from the mega-banks who were at the center of the global economic crisis – and invest in our local communities.

8. By supporting green businesses, we can rebuild our Main Streets and create new jobs. Recent studies confirm what you and I have known for years: According to the Kaufman Foundation, over the past 25 years, virtually all net new jobs in the US have been created by small, local and independent businesses that are less than five years old. The Pew Charitable Trust reported that green jobs in the U.S. grew more than twice as fast as the overall job market in the past ten years, and suffered fewer setbacks.

9. By choosing green products and services, people can improve their health, live better and save money when they go green.

10. By using our consumer and investing power, we can make real, lasting change. Steps forward include Home Depot shifting to sustainably-harvested wood and Ben & Jerry’s committing to be 100% Fair Trade with their flavors by 2012. Let’s keep up the pressure on Hershey’s to go Fair Trade!

Americans can and do come together for clean energy and jobs, healthy food, a fair deal for all, and financing systems that rebuild our Main Streets. As we work together on strengthening local businesses and local communities, we’re also building alliances across political divides, reknitting the fabric of our country. We have powerful tools at our fingertips for accelerating the shift to a just and sustainable economy.

Thanks for all you do for a better future for all,

Alisa Gravitz
Executive Director
Green America

Yasir Saddiqe can’t stand or walk. He hasn’t been able to since contracting polio at the age of three, but despite his disability, he worked as a tailor’s apprentice for 18 months after graduating. His customers appreciated his work, as the garments were always high quality and completed quickly. His family and customers all agreed, Yasir has great talent for tailoring.

Now at age 21, Yasir decided it’s time he open his own tailor shop. During his apprenticeship, he earned Rs. (Pakistani Rupee) 50-60, which is about $0.58 to $0.70, per Shalwar Kameez, a loose local trouser-shirt combination. If he opened his own shop, he figured he would stitch 3 or 4 suits a day and sell for Rs. 250 each. After the cost of electricity, rent, and fabric, his earnings would be around Rs. 125 ($1.45), which would be double his previous income.

To get him started, Yasir’s family purchased a used sewing machine for Rs. 13000 ($151.35). However, Yasir needed more funding to actually open the shop. His 60-year old father, Mohammad Saddiqe, earned only the minimum monthly wage of Rs. 6000 as a contract sneaker worker, and has not only Yasir to support, but three other sons and four daughters as well.

Normally situations like Yasir’s would end up hopeless because although there is a minimum wage set by the government in Pakistan, workers are often paid less and therefore struggle to provide for their families. However, Mohammad works for Talon Sports, a leading manufacturer of sports goods in Sialkot, Pakistan. Talon is also the manufacturer of Autonomie Project’s sneaker line, Ethletic. Certified by Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International (FLO) in 2002, the fair trade premium of Talon products are invested in projects that support the empowerment and social development of workers.

The Saddiqe family requested a loan from Talon, and in June the loan committee paid for a second hand hem-making machine and loaned Yasir Rs. 25000 to open his tailor shop! Yasir was now practically set to open his shop.  However, just as the loan was approved, a doctor from a local hospital called Yasir to Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab province, some 2.5 hours away by car. His left knee needed to be re-set. The Lahore hospital charged him Rs. 30000.

Because Talon provides health coverage for its workers and their family, Yasir’s charges were taken care of by the Talon Fair Trade Welfare Society. His follow up costs, which total around Rs. 20000, would also be covered.

Yasir returned home after ten days with half his left leg in a cast. He currently passes time by watching TV on an old computer since he has to stay in bed for at least two months. After that, he can finally open his shop for business. The loan committee has postponed repayment of course, until he is well enough to start his shop.

Considering the fate he has to wrestle with, it is an enormous relief that Talon and Autonomie Project could help make his life a little easier.

-Michelle Thai

With World Fair Trade Day behind us, and news that Fair Trade sales are still growing despite the global recession, evidently Fair Trade products are in demand! Fair Trade movements such as Fair Trade Towns, Fair Trade the White House, and Fair Trade Your Home have been growing with success and campaigns have been popping up all over the country. Green America has brought the Fair Trade world a new focus: Fair Trade Your Supermarket! Green America has some hefty partners in this campaign including Fair Trade Federation, Fair Trade Towns, Global Exchange and Fair Trade Resource Network. This sort of teamwork is what Fair Trade is all about!

The idea behind the campaign is that although demand for Fair Trade products is high and continuity growing, many Supermarkets throughout the country do not carry ANY Fair Trade products. This grassroots movements asks consumers and people like you to get involved and help persuade their local Supermarkets to carry Fair Trade certified products. They have an easy link to give suggestions on exactly how you can convince your market to carry Fair Trade items, beginning with taking stock of what they already carry. They have also set up a map showing where campaigns are taking place, tips on what to say and who to talk to, ask you to share your stories and pictures, and provide information on Fair Trade.

This new project is encouraging and it is exciting to see Fair Trade products enter the mainstream stage. Although we mostly support local Co-ops and independent markets, we think bringing Fair Trade to as many consumers as possible is a step in the right direction. The more products available, the more people will buy, and the more we will support fair labor and environmental practices throughout the world. Having supermarkets carry Fair Trade products will allow millions of Americans to support the workers of the world. We are really excited about this campaign and hope it spreads Fair Trade to all the corners of the country. Please, consider getting involved or at least letting others in your community know about the campaign.   Take the stand today and Fair Trade Your Supermarket!

Are you ready to get your drink on? I hope so, because FAIR Vodka is now available in the US. You may remember last September’s blog entry where we introduced our readers to the announcement of the first fair-trade certified Vodka, FAIR Vodka. When we first mentioned this marvelous product, the availability was much more restricted, but thanks to the innovative geniuses behind the Fair Trade Spirits Company, the demand for FAIR Vodka in the US market has been heard and met. Select liquor stores, Whole Foods, and other natural foods stores across the country now supply this socially responsibly made liquor for you to leisurely enjoy at your convenience.

This spirit is very special because it takes the quinoa grain, a great protein source for non-meat eaters and carnivores alike, and ethically produces Vodka that improves lives. Not only is this the first Vodka that has been derived from the quinoa grain, but all the quinoa used is Fair Trade certified. A native of Peru, quinoa has been a staple in the diets of many cultures for over 5,000 years, but only recently has this “super-grain” become popular in the United States. The research behind the FAIR Vodka process totaled two years, and is a collaboration of French distillers and Bolivian farmers who are part of ANAPQUI (Asociacion Nacional de Productores de Quinoa), which was established in 1983 as a collaborative effort for small farmers to collectively sell and market the quinoa they grow.

I can’t wait to introduce my friends and family to my mad-mixing-skills this Memorial Day weekend with the inclusion of FAIR Vodka as the spirit of choice. Barbeques with booze are my favorite, and I would love to swap recipes for mixers to try out. Here are two of my favorite cocktails:

The Cape Cod (or Vodka Cranberry)*

1 1/2 oz FAIR Vodka
4 oz Organic Cranberry Juice

Combine in a highball glass with ice. Garnish with a wedge of lime, and serve.

Espresso Cocktail:*

3/4 oz Kahlua® coffee liqueur
3/4 oz FAIR Vodka
1 oz Fair Trade Espresso
Prepare a martini glass with a brown-sugared rim. Shake all ingredients with ice, strain into the prepared glass, and serve.

*Recipes for a single serving

Please feel free to share your favorite recipes! And remember drinking responsibly for yourself and the planet is easy!

-Hannah Bybee

Lane's first "Trick or treat" Photo By tomeppyBefore long we will all hear that age old adage of “Trick or Treat?” as the small ones dressed in their best witch and pirate costumes will hold out a pillowcase in hopes of receiving chocolate. But what if we mixed it up a bit this year?! Global Exchange is promoting a new way to celebrate Halloween, while promoting a great idea: Reverse Trick or Treating. The idea is to have each Trick or Treater hand out Fair Trade Chocolate with an informational card about Fair Trade to each house they visit on Halloween. What a great way to spread the message, and really who is going to turn down a piece of Fair Trade Chocolate? 

Fair Trade Chocolate for Saint Valentine's Day Photo By jetaloneGlobal Exchange was providing kits for free, however, due to the popularity of the idea they have run out! Never fear though, you can request the informational cards from them and buy some delicious Fair Trade chocolate from Equal Exchange or other Fair Trade Chocolate companies. Also, Equal Exchange has posted the informational cards online in English and Spanish and you can order chocolates to hand out.  Also, Global Exchange sells a Halloween themed Fair Trade Action Kit which includes mini Fair Trade chocolates, postcards, Eco-friendly trick or treating bag, and a Fair Trade poster to hang up!

Whether you are taking your littlest family members out to gather sweets or if you are at home passing out candy, please consider spreading the Fair Trade message. Unfortunately, conventional chocolate companies are known for various labor and environmental abuses. Seriously, there is no better way to educate others on the perks of Fair Trade chocolate than to give them out on an American holiday now centered around candy. Enjoy your Fair Trade Halloween!

Autumn Colors Photo By Per Ola WibergAs the leaves change and the air turns crisp, most people are digging out their jackets and thinking of Halloween costumes. However, do not forget that October, as well as being the home of the spookiest holiday, is also Fair Trade Month! So while you are taking in the smells of Fall and enjoying those pumpkin sweets, take time to celebrate and promote Fair Trade. All month long there are events across the nation including Fair Trade Festivals, Market, Film Viewings, and Tea Time.  Make sure to check out the Transfair Fair Trade Month site for an event near you! 

On top of great events , Transfair has planned to announce tips on how to bring more Fair Trade into your lives through 31 Days 31 Ways! Every day during the month of October they will post these tips! We will also be announce their tips on our Twitter Feed. So pay attention for the best of Fair Trade tips all month long

Fair Trade Fair Photo By PlutorIf you would like to be more involved, you can attend your local events or join the Fair Trade Towns in your area and help make your city of residence truly Fair Trade. In the case where you may have a couple of extra bucks hanging around, you can always donate to Transfair Finally, please support Fair Trade as much as possible. There are hundreds of great Fair Trade companies including us at AP and so many more for all your product needs. 

So take in that autumn breeze and while you enjoy the colors of the season, remember the workers and farmers across the world. Please celebrate Fair Trade Month, even if you just buy a cup of Fair Trade joe or pass this information off to a friend! Happy Fair Trade Month :)

Economists and businesses all across the board are recognizing the immense impact the Fair Trade movement is having in markets across the globe, both in producer and consumer countries.  While not exactly promoting the idea of Fair Trade or ethical economics, Vijay Sarathy, vice-president of consulting firm Charles River Associates, admits on Purchasing.com that larger companies may end up shooting themselves financially if they aren’t willing to accept business models that accomodate higher wages for workers or adhere to environmental standards, such as those outlines in the Kyoto Protocol.  

Such concerns are also echoed in publications like QSRMagazine.com, which outlines and promotes strategies for the “quick-serve restaurant” industry, not exactly the most ethically outstanding segment of the modern economy.  But they recognize, based on market research, that In the U.S., some eight out of ten consumers feel it is ‘important’ or ‘very important’ that companies engage in programs to support the environment and society,”  and that companies risk their consumer base if they fail to recognize peoples’ moral concerns.  However, if one reads on, the article unravels quite a few devious methods the industry has for dealing with such concerns while keeping their strategies and identities (read: bottom lines) secure.  

Coffee Photo By Selma90

Perhaps this kind of dishonesty and double-speak is part of the reason why, even in a heavy recession with an uncertain future, businesses engaged in Fair Trade practices are still showing market growth, albeit somewhat slowed, while gigantic service and manufacturing companies watch their figures plummet.  As Juliet Morris, director of marketing for Just Us! Coffee Roasters, puts it in the blog Interrupcion Fair Trade: “Growth has moderated. But, as one of my friends said, ‘Flat is the new up.”   But for those consumers that are curious about or have already embraced a Fair Trade ethic, the reason for this success is absolutely clear: it makes you feel good to buy and use things that aren’t destructive to people, animals or the environment.  It’s a simple, moral truth.  The violating deceit of large-scale financers and businesses has imbued a healthy skepticism and caution in the public mind, and the result can be seen in the avenues where purchasing power has shifted.

Business Graph Photo By nDevilTV'Amber Chand, a Ugandan refugee who fled from Idi Amin’s dictatorship in the 70’s and came to Massachusetts, operates her own online Fair Trade gift company .  Sited on Jezebel.com, she has no doubt why, during the last holiday season, her business grew an eye-opening 22%.  “People during a downturn start feeling extremely conscious of how they spend their money. And your money is your vote, your dollar is a political statement of where you’re making your choices, so for people coming to the collection, they were deciding to buy a beautiful candle, or a beautiful basket or necklace from the collection because they knew it directly impacted the life of a woman and her family in a region of the world that we would consider extremely vulnerable.”  

Phat Wad, Break me off some Photo By Refracted Moments™'s So as school commences and the holiday season approaches, know that your dollar truly does count in the social and political scheme of things, perhaps most of all, and be encouraged that many others refuse to let economic uncertainty compromise their ethics.  It appears that there is a larger trend in consumer spending to use dollars wisely rather than the cheapest option. We hope this trend continues and blossoms into a full scale consumer revolution! The best way to support this revolution is to spend consciously (something we at AP know a little something about). Besides our humble company, there are plenty of great Fair Trade companies to support in order to meet all your shopping needs.  As loyalty and trust in big name manufacturers meet their timely end, the signs are clear: Fair Trade is the future!

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