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!

MoBikeFed retreat in West Plains Photo By MoBikeFedA great awakening is occurring in regard to making a positive impact on humanity and specifically the environment. People have begun to realize that little things we can do in our daily life can make a difference. Shopping locally, purchasing Fair Trade and union made goods, supporting local organic farmers, making conscious decisions about the food we eat, volunteering, riding bicycles more frequently, even carrying your own reusable totes to the grocery store. All of these are important and empowering tools in our quest to leave the world a little better than it was left us. However, beneath all of that important work done on the individual level, there are also a strong desires amongst us new age environmentalists for all-encompassing, worldwide solutions.

08 Storm Brisbane Photo By Burning ImageEnter Cap and Trade. The Cap and Trade scheme has been put forth in the climate of disaster and doom and want for real change. There is only one problem. It won’t change anything. In fact it will make our problems worse. The two creators of the Cap and Trade concept stated in a recent interview that their original intentions weren’t global in nature at all, but rather solutions to specific local pollution scenarios. David Morris of the Institute for Local Self Reliance wrote an amazing article for Alternet in 2007, laying out the conflict between local and global solutions. This helps explain the differences between both points. 

Shelbyville Smoke Stacks Photo By Paul J EverettIt is easy to see how carbon trading legislation would only serve to enhance globalization, thus moving more industries to countries that have zero labor and environmental laws. The end result of this course will be not only disastrous for the rights of workers in these countries, ultimately leading to the building of more sweatshops for our goods.  Ironically, the environment will also suffer. It is already estimated that 50% of the mercury falling on North America is from Chinese power plants. This corresponds with other major industrial airborne pollutants. The results of more industry moving to China would not only raise carbon dioxide emissions, but more deadly and dangerous chemicals ending up back on the U.S. 

Stack of Money - Scraped from the Net Photo By purpleslogHowever, even in the United States, under cap and trade the major polluters will be able to operate business as usual. By simply buying the cheapest carbon credits, they can continue to to run dirty operations. Basically, the bigger the corporation, the more credits can be bought. There is no provision that requires local or regional offsets, so credits can be purchased anywhere in the world, while the actual costs are passed on to the consumer the worker and the communities down wind and down stream from the factories and power plants. This is a major reason why, many environmental groups actually oppose the idea of carbon trading.  

A national and international carbon trading scheme is also ripe for corruption and has the opportunity (almost the guarantee) to create an economic bubble the world has never seen. One commentator called this the “white collar crime wave of the future.” In that vein, it is telling who some of the proponents of cap and trade legislation are. An Enron executive said carbon trading, “will do more to promote Enron’s business than will almost any other regulatory initiative outside of restructuring of the energy and natural-gas industries in Europe and the United States.” It must also be noted that Goldman Sachs and the rest of Wall Street financial firms are chomping at the bit for any mandatory cap and trade system.

San Sebastian Open Air Market Photo By topgoldSo is Cap and Trade really helpful? It doesn’t seem that it is an actual solution to a serious pollution and environmental problem. If anything it seems to be the same solution America has used for past issues, a way to make money. It is also important to note that hope does not always equal reality. It is nearly impossible to be a proponent of Fair Trade and of real environmentalism and still support Cap and Trade. What is important, however is to continue doing whatever you can locally to improve the environment of your community and your region. We can not only accomplish more on the local and regional level through our actions, we can truly affect the world in a positive way. 

Fair Trade LogoAll we hear is recession, depression, and bankruptcy from everyone’s mouths from the Media, to the President, and just about everyone on the street. Well don’t let all this negativity get you down, because we have some excellent sales news to report!  This month the Fair Trade Resource Network announced that despite a Global Recession, world Fair Trade sales rose 22% in 2008! This is very encouraging data, especially because as many industries downsize and disappear, its great that a conscious industry is growing.

Not only did they announce an overall increase in sales, but for many countries they have seen a huge jump. For instance, Canada’s Fair Trade sales grew 67%, Finland saw an increase of 57%, New Zealand grew a whopping 73%, and Sweden took the top spot with a growth of 75%! Sadly the US Fair Trade sales only grew 10%, but at least there is some growth. Also, Britain who only expanded their sales 43% became the country with the most Fair Trade sales worldwide.

On top of all these wonderful increases, its extremely exciting to announce that several Fair Trade industries are also expanding their sales. This includes the Fair Trade cotton (which of course we at AP use) industry sales grew 94%!!!! It is a grand feeling to know we, and you as loyal supporters, have contributed to such a high level of prosperity. It is a promising figure to see! Cotton is not the only fast progressing Fair Trade product, the sale of Fair Trade tea increased 112% and Fair Trade bananas sales grew 28%.

These figures may seem small or possibly a tad on the boring side, but if you are still reading at this point, I want to express how overwhelmingly encouraging they really are. Because despite other industries going bankrupt, Fair Trade is seeing real increases. Does this mean people around the globe are paying attention to their consumption choices? We certainly hope so!  Information and statistics like these are supportive evidence to the idea of a positive change in our global economy. So if you aren’t a supporter already, please pay attention to what you buy. Because really your power is in your dollar!

Fair Trade the White HouseSeveral months ago we reported on an earlier idea to bring Fair Trade to the White House. Well now there is a legitimate and growing non partisan, non profit organization that is rallying to make the White House truly Fair Trade. Fair Trade companies, other non profits, individuals, and consumers who have banded together to try and promote true progress to our new Presidential family. The Fair Trade the White House Campaign hopes to especially introduce Michelle Obama to the idea of Fair Trade. On top of that we are all wishing she would implement Fair Trade practices at the White House. This would lead to exceptional changes, as many mainstream Americans would get a chance to not only hear the words Fair Trade but be introduced to the idea. 

white house Photo By dcJohnThere are plenty of companies that have banded together in their support for this cause, including Autonomie Project. We are very happy and inspired to be involved! You can check out all the supporting companies and retail shops as well as individuals and other non profits who are backing the movement. One way to show your support is to use your purchasing power at any of the vendors and retail outlets listed above. Fair Trade the White House!The campaign even offers coupons to some of these great companies including Fair Trade Sports and Global Fayre. But you can also get directly involved by adding your signature to the personal invite addressed to Michelle Obama, urging her to declare the White House Fair Trade. And if you are feeling up to being a street team member or just want to hang a poster declaring your support, they have some great materials to print off and distribute. 

This is a HUGE opportunity for the Fair Trade movement and we are positive this can happen! Think of all the attention Fair Trade would receive if the First Lady decided to switch over the White House to Fair Trade. So please if you have a few moments, check out the Fair Trade the White House campaign and help promote the movement!

n62166499212_9525It is pretty plain to see that Fair Trade is incredibly important to us here at Autonomie Project. And we have partnered with the Boston Faith and Justice Network and Artists for Humanity to organize and bring the lovely city of Boston, Fair Trade Boston! So what exactly is Fair Trade Boston, you may ask yourself? Well, it is a grassroots community organization that is throwing an awesome kick off event, also entitled Fair Trade Boston 2009 this weekend!! The event intends to not only bring awareness of Fair Trade to the city, but also to take steps to make Boston a Fair Trade City, along the same vein as the Fair Trade Towns initiative. And the best part of the event: IT’S FREE!!!

fashionThis Saturday, June 13th will be full of Fair Trade fun for the whole family! We have put together an amazing event that includes a Fair Trade Vendor Fair, A mini-cafe hosted by Equal Exchange, Fair Trade Goodies such as aChocolate Fountain provided by Harvest Co-op and brownies from Veggie Planet, a Fair Trade Theater and a silent auction of AP sneakers hand painted by Artists for Humanity. We also have an amazing list of performances planned including a Fair Trade Fashion Show, DJ provided by Rebel Sound, bands including Maeve and Skinny Millionares, speakers such as Jonathan Rosenthal andfountain Diego Brenes, United Roots-a breakdancing team, and the Imani Project-step dance team. We also have fun activites for the whole family including Fair Trade 101, face painting, and a children’s soccer match!! There is even more than we are able to list here, check out the full list and the events schedule.

This year’s event is going to seriously rock! And if you are in the Boston area you should come! You won’t want to miss all the fun and excitement, plus there is a pretty sweet door prize, just for showing up! Now is the time to come together as a community and promote Fair Trade in our lovely city of Boston. We really hope to see you there!

When: Saturday June 13th from 12pm to 6pm See the Schedule for the time of performances

Where: Artists for Humanity Epicenter in South Boston: 100 West Second St; near the Broadway T Stop

More Information: Website, Facebook, and Blog.

I BET some of you are wondering what on earth I am talking about??!!

Let me clarify a little: what’s the difference between Starbucks fair trade and Equal Exchange fair trade? Aren’t they both fair trade??EELogoPrint

der Morgen beginnt mit Starbucks Coffee

Yes, they both are. I’m sure you are even more confused now. I want to address what I believe are the major differences between a large company’s version of fair trade versus a smaller more grass-roots based company’s version of fair trade.

Wow. There are a plethora of differences but because this is a blog and not my dissertation, I will address only some of the most immediate ones that strike me.

Most large companies that offer fair trade versions of their products like Walmart purchase their items from large plantation style farms. One reason this is contentious is because fair trade originated with the hopes of providing employment and sustainable alternatives for the poorest which tended to be small farmers who don’t have the volumes to sell to large companies, hence being squeezed out of the market.tea plantation

When large companies use fair trade products, yes—they are paying higher wages and at least not oppressing the farmers they once exploited. This is definitely great. However, they are still maintaining the hierarchical systems that oppress farmers. Since they support plantation farming, the farmers are not necessarily owners of the land. women in laos

In not owning the land, you are limited in your voice and hence your power and access to social mobility. Your purpose is limited and upward mobility is stagnant: you are and will always be a farmer, not an owner.

Additionally, there are also grave environmental impacts in plantation farming. Yes, fair trade certification has standards for environmental protection that even the plantations have to follow. However, think of the vast degree of damage that can be done to land–long term–when acres of land that are used for massive production…….think of how the nitrates are being drained from the soil. What becomes of this land, a decade or two later?

no nitrates in soil

We grassroots fair trade folk tend to criticize large company versions of fair trade because we think its just addressing the issue of unjust prices and probably one of the easier ways of joining the fair trade “trend.” It’s an easy way to capture the market…if you get what I mean. Rink Dickinson of Equal Exchange best describes it as “fair trade lite.” We do fair trade and large companies engage in “fair trade lite.”

Fair trade

Fair trade for small companies is something entirely different. Small grassroots oriented companies tend to work with small cooperatives and with producers in lower rungs of poverty. For example, as mentioned in a previous AP post, our knit apparel come from Northern Creations. We are their only source of employment and because they live in such rural areas, business is challenging. Not only can they not get certain materials easily but many times they don’t have the tools or the skills to do it. This means that we, the importer step in to provide the tools and skills so that the cooperative members are learning, gaining skills and increasing their earning potential. How many times do you think Walmart has visited their producers to teach them new skills and done capacity building with them?

I feel that small grassroots companies get involved in fair trade for different reasons. We don’t do it to capture a new market or to because it would be good for our image to be socially responsible. We do it because we realize that this movement can impact the success of our brothers and sisters abroad and if we can create an impetus for change—we should.

Unfortunately, nothing in life is that simple. What large companies do offer is larger scale impact in terms of proportion. For example, Starbuck’s total purchase of fair trade coffee is 6%, but this measly 6% creates a tremendous impact for millions of farmers. This behemoth’s 6% purchase also makes it the largest fair trade coffee purchaser in the world. The sad truth is that many small grassroots companies never grow to this level to be able to impact such a large number of farmers.

However, working for a small fair trade company, my bias is obvious. I think it’s hard sharing the market with larger companies because everything is harder for us small companies. We don’t have millions of dollars in marketing budgets to educate our consumers on our products, nor do we have the brand recognition, nor entirely vertical infrastructure that minimizes cost for the customer. Since we are small, we tend to also not have the networks and executives alliances that provide us elite access.

So, as you can see, there are no easy answers–just different perspectives.

eyes

I reflect on this conundrum frequently. What is better: small scale change with less proportional impact or large scale impact so more people earn a higher wage despite minimal system change? In other words, quality of life for a few or little change for many??  I don’t know. I suspect both are needed to create the paradigm change we seek.

However, if you are like myself and tend to lean for the little guy: the small grass roots fair trade companies–then you should come check out our

draft_4

Fair Trade Boston event. The small grass-roots fair trade companies were it’s inspiration and the majority of the vendors are small local fair trade businesss, working hard to do their part in justice.

peru_mapI recently returned from visiting with our friends at Northern Creations, the woman’s cooperative that makes all of our knit hand bags and accessories. I had such an unique experience while visiting with them and I am excited to share it with you!  I really want the AP community to know who they are supporting when buying our knit products so here’s your introduction.
First, follow me on this journey to Piura, Peru.  Piura is in the northern section of Peru only 11 hours away from the border with Ecuador. In order to get to Piura from Lima you have to survive a 13-18 hour bus ride that passes the Sechura Desert (one of the world’s few tropical deserts). The Sechura Desert is amazing! It ranges up to 72 miles and expands from the coastal NW of Peru to the Atacama Desert in Chile.
sechura 1

Piura is quite interesting because it is both desert and tropical. To the south it is divided by the Sechura and on the northern region it is savanna-like subtropical dry forest.

Northern Creations lives in region called La Florida in the outskirts of Piura. The roads are not paved and are filled with sand. The sun shines strong, averaging 90+ degree temperature and it is best described as arid/desert.
sechura desert
I only visited for about 2 weeks and despite being there for such a short period of time, I learned a great deal from these amazing ladies!  I have to admit though, re-adjusting was difficult and I learned how much more difficult it is to run a business in less privileged regions. For example, whenever the ladies have to ship out their products to us, they have to get on a 13+ hour bus to Lima and then ship it to the US. The distance is truly tiring!!!
Since the government has not yet established potable water in this region, the bathrooms consist of “natural toilets” in the backyard best described as a deep hole in the ground that everyone used. Ok friends, I have a confession to make: one of the most difficult things for me was the use of the toilets there.
toilet
I’m sorry but I really l-0-v-e shiny, clean ceramic toilet bowls!!! I know going in nature is not a big deal but stagnant non-treated waste is conducive to a slew of diseases and at this point my hypochondria started to kick in. It also made me wonder if the communities experienced more disease as a result of having non-treated waste nearby?
Loly's community
Most of the homes in this area are unfinished with 3 walls, a semi-permanent roof and dirt floors.  This was a gift in disguise. One really great thing about semi-permanent roofing is that you can literally hear the wild-life from your room when you sleep (something this nature lover really enjoyed).  The really not so great thing about semi-permanent ceilings is that the rain can become destructive AND……if you have small children, many of them can become fearful of the noises and have trouble sleeping at night. This was the case in the home I stayed where the little girl couldn’t sleep at night for fear of the near-by animals. We would all have to sit by her bedside just so she could fall asleep.
One of the most disturbing observations I made was that many of the children within the community had distinct ailments, at a young age. The mothers would tell me that when they were pregnant, they didn’t have adequate nutrition so they didn’t produce enough milk to feed their children but are grateful the children survived.
community kids
I heard similar scenarios from distinct women within the community and at that point realized I had so much to learn about life from them.  Despite how little they had (whether it is food, housing, or income), they were very grateful. Northern Creations  had such an admirable sense of humility and gratitude that I hope to, one day, attain.
On a brighter note, I quickly came to see that all the cooperative women love knitting.  Some of the women are the main wage earners in their homes, and many have several children. While I was with Northern Creations, I interviewed most of the women members and was happy to see that other than needing additional income, they revealed that their attraction to the cooperative  was to exercise a skill they adore: knitting. They were intrigued in seeing how they could use their knitting skills to help sustain their family and were excited about the possibility of learning new skills. I cannot tell you how much of a  deep passion these women have for knitting. They are so skilled that they know how to pick the cotton from the plant, spin it into thread (yes friends, they know how to do it manually ….u know, the work that takes several machines in a mill to accomplish) and then use it to weave. It gladdened me to hear that despite their difficult realities, they were able to gain employment through something they genuinely enjoyed doing.
knitting
In closing, if you are wondering why I so vividly described Northern Creation’s living conditions in this blog—it is because I would like to give you an accurate picture of how different Northern Creation’s world is to our own and how much of an impact your support can have. We may have an abundance of material wealth, but they have a distinct type of wealth that cannot be described in something tangible. One message they wanted me to relay to the American public was: “thank you for supporting us through the purchase of our products. We make them with lots of love and are so happy to know you like them.”
Who knew that a purchase could change so much for people on the opposite side of our hemisphere?
happy woman
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