Next week marks the beginning of World Fair Trade Day! It’s a day to celebrate and bring awareness to the issues of labor rights and Fair Trade. Only a few days after International Worker’s Rights Day, World Fair Trade Day is just as important when it comes to labor issues. It is a day to draw attention to a different way to do commerce, a responsible way.  Although there are many ways to support Fair Trade in your daily life, but to celebrate the movement in one day across the world is pretty exciting!

What’s more exciting is we are participating in Fair Trade Boston’s World Fair Trade Day Scavenger Hunt! We have teamed up with Fair Trade Boston and Cambridge’s Sudo Shoes to participate in this awesome fair trade party. The Scavenger Hunt will take place all over the cities of Boston, Cambridge and Brookline on Saturday May 12th from noon to 3pm.  People wanting to participate are encouraged to RSVP and download the free SCVNR app.

All day on Saturday, participants will be visiting many locations including Ten Thousand Villages, Ben & Jerry’s, and Sudo Shoes. The best part is you can win a Fair Trade prize at every location you visit! The more locations you visit, the more likely you will win one of the Grand Prizes from awesome Fair Trade companies including yours truly (Autonomie Project), Ten Thousand Villages, Equal Exchange, Haley House, Ben &
Jerry’s, and City Feed and Supply.

But the fun doesn’t end there! After the Scavenger Hunt ends, everyone is invited to a Fair Trade Ice Cream Social! All are asked to meet at the Equal Exchange Cafe to have delicious Fair Trade ice cream floats from Ben & Jerry’s, Maine Root, and Equal Exchange.

We are super excited to be participating in such a unique and fun event for Boston area residents! If you are in the area, please join us for the Fair Trade Scavenger Hunt on May 12th and win some awesome Fair Trade goodies. Why not go?

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!

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.

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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.

It is now officially September and it is back to the books! By now most universities are back in session or are beginning next week.  As you start your Fall Semester, you may be looking for a way to get involved in your school. Did you know there is a Fair Trade University movement? We knew about Fair Trade Towns (both Boston and San Francisco are one), but Fair Trade Universities are a super exciting new way to spread Fair Trade.

The first Fair Trade University in the US was the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh in 2008. Since then, many campuses are working to make their University a Fair Trade haven. What does it take to become a Fair Trade University? A committee must formed, the school must be selling Fair Trade products, Fair Trade products must be served at internal functions, a Fair Trade Policy must be instated, and a commitment to Fair Trade education. Easy enough, right?

If your University doesn’t have an active committee yet, start one! Fair Trade Towns & Universities site have a lot of great info to helo you get started, including a Student Action Guide and Intro Guide.  Also, if you are near Philadelphia, this year is the very first Fair Trade Towns & Universities National Conference next weekend.  Start this semester off right and get your Fair Trade education on! Good luck.

Imagine sitting around the dinner table with your family. You are laughing, and sharing the day’s events. You help yourself to a serving of mashed potatoes. You descend back into a comfortable sitting position and pick up your fork. Just as the cold steel of the fork touches your mouth, the door slams open and a wave of armed men enter the dining room. Their presence alone is startling, and has frightened you and the rest of your family into a position of powerlessness. They tell you your living room is now the site for a cattle-farm and that although, one day you may resume the meal together, today is not that day.

This scenario is not my first choice for a daydream, but parallel circumstances have been a harsh reality for people, all over the world.

Years of abuse and overproduction of the Earth’s resources has contributed to global climate change, the displacement of indigenous people and wildlife, and has triggered a humanitarian panic to amend our industrial indiscretions.

The Amazon Rainforest often referred to as “the lungs of our planet,” has graciously provided the vital service of recycling carbon dioxide into oxygen, among other things, and has demanded nothing in return.

We are civilized people. No well-mannered men would accept a gift of such generous implications without the returned expression of appreciation. As a token of our humble thanks, this is what we offered the Rainforest:

Since 1970, we have destroyed over 600,000 square kilometers of the Amazon Rainforest and displaced or killed countless amounts of indigenous wildlife and people in the process.

Why?

Cheeseburgers, furniture, oil, and pharmaceuticals.

And now, in the wake of the new climate change resolution trend, it seem our destruction of billions of acres of rainforest is no longer a sufficient offering. In this new era of environmental responsibility, action has just begun for the reconciliation of our misdeeds. Unfortunately, many of the resolutions in effect come with the same cost for the indigenous life.

Deforestation contributes nearly 20% of the total global carbon emissions. We have been taught to equate carbon emissions with global warming, and global warming with a man-caused process that must be stopped, for the sake of our planet.

In a nutshell: by clearing out billions of acres of rainforest for the timber industries, cattle farming, oil, soybean, and paper industries, we have caused irreparable damage to the planet and the life indigenous to the rainforest. Now it is a race to right the wrongs of the human race, and where there is a demand, there is possibility for economic gain. Ironically and tragically, the indigenous people and wildlife who have forcibly suffered in the name of economic gain are once again being made to bare the burden, only this time it is under the guise of going green.

REDD, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, is a United Nations collaborative program. According to their website:

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. “REDD+” goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation, and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.”

This simply means that governments, companies or forest owners in the South would be paid for keeping forests standing instead of cutting them down. The main system of finance behind REDD is the carbon-market system. According the Indigenous Environmental Network:

Carbon Markets buy and sell permits to pollute called ‘allowances’ and ‘carbon credits.’ Carbon markets have two parts: emissions trading (also called ‘cap and trade’) and offsets. They are false solutions to climate change because they do not bring about the changes needed to keep fossil fuels in the ground. They claim to solve the climate crisis but really allow polluters to buy their way out of reducing their emissions. These multi-billion dollar trading mechanisms privatize and commodify the earth’s ability to keep its atmosphere balanced. The International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change opposes carbon markets.”

It is no surprise that even the implementation of a socially responsible system is designed for a few key players to make a very large profit. Reuters, an international news agency, reported that an Interpol environmental crime official warned that organized crime syndicates are eyeing the REDD forest carbon credit industry as a potentially lucrative new opportunity for fraud, at a conference in Indonesia. Exploitation was and is inevitable, but what does it mean for the people? Aside from marginalized financial gain, will REDD be a solution to the displacement of indigenous life?

I wish I could say yes.

Previous conservation efforts such as: Dumoga-Bone National Park in Sulawesi, Indonesia and Korup National Park in Cameroon have taught us that the indigenous people often lose more access to their land, and are stripped of their freedoms as governments and corporations implement strict regulations and guidelines, in order to uphold their new systems.

So who do we support?  We are constantly being told to go green and we want to do the right thing. We believe in making a difference in our environment and our world, but at what cost? On the other hand, were told not to trust big corporations; the driving forces behind much of these issues. And why should we?

What should we do?
Who can we believe?

The International Conference on indigenous people’s rights, alternatives and solutions to the climate crisis was held November 4-9 2010. in the Philippines. The conference was organized by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, Land is Life, IBON International, Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network and the People’s Movement on Climate Change.

In their declaration of solidarity, this was said:

We believe that the root cause of the enormous problems we face today is the neoliberal global capitalist system, which puts profits before people and the planet. Central to this system is the expropriation and control of resources by multinational corporations, and dispossession and marginalization of small producers, workers, peasants, women and indigenous peoples.

It is true of the indigenous people of the rainforest, and it is true of you and me. Money is more valuable, globally, than human life. By no means am I suggesting that we fight capitalism or take a political stance one way or the other, but what I am promoting is the value of life above all.

Advocate for the indigenous people of the rainforest. If you have the opportunity to buy goods from a small local company that sells environmentally friendly and fair trade products, give them your money instead of circulating it back into the industries that wreak havoc on humanity.

Most importantly, be informed. Know where your financial support ends up, and what you can do to ensure the quality of life for others, that you get to enjoy yourself.

-Jaclyn Bauman

I can still remember the first time I heard the phrase “fair trade.” It was at my first job in 1999 at a small independent coffee shop in my home town of Shingle Springs, CA.  A hip woman in her 30′s, who seemed ancient to me at the time, asked me if our coffee was fair trade.  “Fair trade?” I thought to myself. The next year I started college and I quickly answered my questions about fair trade, as well as global economic issues.  In the last decade, fair trade has come a long way in my life, especially through Autonomie Project, but the movement itself has made tremendous strides.

This year ushered in a new year and forced us to reflect on the last decade. In the last ten years fair trade products have expanded beyond coffee to rice, flowers, and olive oil to name a few. Demand and sales have grown exponentially, growing three times as much in the later half of the decade. But perhaps more importantly, the real life impact of fair trade has been huge. The Fairtrade Foundation published a review of fair trade benefits in the last ten years. The review examined  case studies, most in coffee, and most of the cases showed  serious economic, social empowerment, and environmental improvements with fair trade policies. This means fair trade is directly affecting and improving people’s lives and changing the way we structure our world.

It is not to say fair trade is perfect, in fact it should be a system constantly improved upon. Since it is clear fair trade meets most of its goals, the next decade should focus on expanding fair trade, as well as perfecting the policies. I have high hopes for the next few years, as the US now has garment certification, which will include some of our products. This is really exciting and could mean the beginning of several more products. Also, the conversation has already started about how to improve fair trade requirements and new certifications.

Looking back at the last decade is hopeful and encouraging. Let’s see how much more we can improve upon our current system and new products, as well as new countries where fair trade can make an impact. This is our world and we need to influence the way the world is treated. Now is the time to start and let’s start the teens right!

-Gina Williams

Christmas is fast approaching and gift buying is getting down to the wire.  We wanted to compile a great list of Fair Trade gifts for just about everyone on your list. Below is a list of our favorite fairly traded gifts for the 2010 shopping season:

For the Entertainer: We all have those friends or loved ones who just love to through dinner parties and plan every holiday. Check out this terrific Fair Trade serving trays for all their entertainment needs. You can add to this gift with a beautiful after dinner tea set and some Fair Trade certified tea.

For the Fashionista: Fair Trade fashion is definitely cutting edge. With Fair Trade USA’s new garment certification program, the US will now have it’s own certification. Luckily there are many great options for gifts for those in your life with a love of fashion. Check out Fair Indigo, Marigold, and of course our lovely Autonomie Project for all your fairly traded fashion.

 

 

For the Pet Lover: Fair Trade fashion is not just for humans anymore! For all your loved ones that like to dress up their furry friends, they can now do so with Fair Trade doggie sweaters with matching leashes. You can also find dog and cat toys made fair trade or in the USA.

For the Tech Savvy: So your loved one loves their gadgets, including computers. Check out this Fair Trade wrist rest for those long days and nights using our mouse, luckily it is shaped just like a mouse!  Or maybe they love their smart phones so much they would hate to lose them. If that’s the case, look no further than these fair trade and eco-friendly cell phone cases made from recycled wrappers.

For the Stress Case: Have any friends that are over-worked and could use some relaxation? What better gift then to give them a basket of relaxation with ethics! Check out these gift baskets filled with bath goodies and soothing lotions. Many include tea and candles just to set the mood right. You could also add in a bottle of wine just to be sure your loved one is actually taking the break they need.

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!

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