Spoiler alert: It’s not coffee.
Do you think the Fair Trade movement is restricted to chocolate and tea? Think again. With every passing year, more and more independent makers and cooperatives are benefiting from living wages, community-building premiums, and safer conditions in their respective workplaces. Why should you remain unaware of the best your talented fellow-humans have to offer? Keep scrolling to see eight of the coolest and more unusual Fair Trade products available on the market today.
№1 Upcycled Circuit Boards
Did you have any idea that the inner workings of your old computer may one day become a clipboard, clock, or even a necklace? The makers of Village Crafts in Sarai Turin, India, find new purposes for what is commonly thought of as electronic waste by creating practical new items. It’s more efficient and sustainable than conventional recycling techniques, which often require high heat and pressure in order to dissolve the polymers in printed circuit boards. Ten Thousand Villages imports these via TARA Projects (Trade Alternative Reform Action), a Fair Trade program which serves the artisans of North India within a 125 mile radius of Delhi.
№2 Sari Products
The women of India and Bangladesh use scraps of colorful sari fabric to create baskets, blankets, whimsical stuffed animals and much, much more. Sasha Exports and Prokritee provide skill training, organization and business independence to marginalized or disadvantaged women, who are often at risk for human trafficking. Check out their talent here and here.
№3 Handmade Cards
If you’re anything like me, then going to Hallmark in search of the perfect greeting card gives you hives. It’s unrelaxing, usually unoriginal, and who mass-produced all those paper products anyhow? Picking a card under those conditions makes you feel agitated and unthoughtful. What better way to remedy papercraft problems than via the Fair Trade movement? Survivors of sex trafficking in the Philippines and disease in Rwanda earn a fair wage from safe, dignifying work, thanks to the efforts of Good Paper and Sanctuary Spring, two of the leading card companies in the Fair Trade industry.
№4 Pocketbooks and Bags
Let’s switch gears and talk accessories for a bit. Almost every woman appreciates a well-made pocketbook, but does buying Fair Trade mean we must sacrifice quality for ethics? Absolutely not! With organizations like Camari in Ecuador and Madhya Kalikata Shilpangan and CRC Exports (Craft Resource Center) in India to back you in your search for ethical accessories- some available in eco-friendly vegetable dyed options- you’ll be well on your way to ditching the brand-name bags in favor of gorgeous heirloom-quality pieces all your own.
While you’re living the Fair Trade life with your swanky handbag, continue to step up your accessory game with handcrafted and recycled jewelry. Necklaces, earrings, endlessly layered bangle bracelets? You name it, I guarantee some artisan, somewhere in the world, makes it. Look for jewelry made by Zakali Creations, Brass Images, Global Mamas and others to get in the African swing of things- or head west and choose from Allpa and Creaciones Chonita from Peru and Guatemala, respectively. Still searching? I wonder why- the options are endless!
No, I don’t think I’m being too obvious here. If you’re going to use salt- or any spice at all, but we’ll cover that next- you owe it to yourself to use the tip-top, very best. Did you know? Salt can be produced one of three ways: deep shaft mining, which is much like mining for any other mineral; solution mining, in which the salt is dissolved in water, pumped out, then re-dried; and solar evaporation, where salt is allowed to build to a specific thickness, then harvested usually once a year from shallow pools of water. Producing salt is a science and often a dangerous business; therefore it’s important to source from organizations who look out for the safety and wages of their workers. Try Myor Pahad or Frontier CoOp for superior salt.
Maybe cardamom, cumin and coriander don’t sound very cool or unusual to you, but the quality of your spices could well make or break your endeavors in the kitchen. It’s no good to buy the cheapest little bottle of imitation vanilla extract for your cookies- especially when vanilla farmers in Madagascar depend on selling their valuable once-a-year crop, which is vulnerable to almost complete destruction by severe weather, or theft. Don’t short the farmers who grew your spices, and don’t devalue the nutritional content of your culinary creations either- almost all Fair Trade food products are grown using holistic methods in harmony with the environment, and with your body too. If you can find a certified organic label, you’ve a match made in heaven. Seasoned Pioneers, The Spicy Gourmet, Pinch Spice Market and Frontier CoOp are all worth checking out.
№8 Tools for Feasting
Let’s bring our ethical culinary conversation to a climax. Who wouldn’t love an eclectically beautiful table? Artisans around the world have you covered! From the foundational tablecloth or runner, to serving dishes and drinkware, you can deck your eating space with original treasures from around the world. Support traditional weavers in India, glassmakers in the West Bank, and many other talented individuals with your tableware here. If you’re going to eat, drink, and be merry- or live at all- by all means, do it fairly!
Bonus! Remnants of War, Made Beautiful
Isn’t it mind-boggling to think of the tremendous impact for good you could make with your everyday purchases? Innovation, character and exceptional quality are truly earmarks of the Fair Trade marketplace. But on the flip side, it’s difficult to think of people suffering in the midst of war, civil unrest and uprisings in the same countries that produce such amazing handicrafts. If the effects of war lay heavy on your heart, I have a treat for you- actually, Ethic Goods from Ethiopia, Article 22 in Laos, and Rajana Association of Cambodia have a treat for you. These brands create jewelry from bomb casings, shrapnel and other war contaminants, encouraging peace, clearing previously unsafe land, and turning the horrific into beauty. With the help of these dedicated crafters and their invaluable creations, you really can wear a message of hope for a better world.
There you have it: start making a point of shopping ethically today! If you found this roundup of Fair Trade fabulousness helpful, amusing, or otherwise beneficial, do be sure to let me know.