Looking around the cupboards in the house I share with three friends, it seems the current economic crisis is really hitting home. While the shelves are still just as well stocked as ever, where Fairtrade coffee and bananas used to sit, they are now just as likely to be replaced by supermarket own brand equivalents. With the economy in the state it is right now, ethical purchasing decisions may come under a little more pressure and a little more scrutiny than previously, and as people ‘tighten their belts’ at home it is worrying that fair trade products may be seen as a luxury, and another thing to be cut in the never-ending struggle to save a few pennies.
With Fairtrade Fortnight on the horizon, it felt like a good time to reflect on what fair trade actually means to people. Depending on your perspective, those two little words, and what they stand for, can have very different meanings. From our perspective, as consumers, it could mean ensuring that our money is spent on products which directly benefit the people responsible for growing or manufacturing them. To the manufacturers, and anyone else on the front line of the fair trade movement, it can mean a lifeline.
I feel it’s worth remembering when considering your fair trade buying habits, that to the producers ‘tightening your belt’ is much more than just a handy turn of phrase, and that our ‘harsh economic outlook’ would be labelled as ‘unadulterated luxury’ by the three billion people currently living on less than $2.50 a day. I know that sounds like the stressed mother lecturing her fussy child on the virtues of eating sprouts, but it’s true. In my opinion, the possible extra expense is outweighed by the benefit to those that need it most, and anyway, in many cases I’m finding that the reputation that fair trade products have for being more expensive doesn’t necessarily carry through, especially with a little bit of crafty shopping. With one quarter of the UK’s shoppers now regularly buying several Fairtrade Labelled products, it seems I’m not the only person to feel this way.
Fairtrade Fortnight offers a wonderful opportunity to show your continuing support, even in these harsh economic times, and show that opposing unfair trade is not just something we do when times are good. Running from 23rd of February to 8th of March, it is an opportunity for everyone to embrace fair trade, and all that it stands for. As its highlight, the Fairtrade Foundation are encouraging everyone to ‘Go Bananas’ – that is join in with their attempt to set a world record for the largest number of Fairtrade bananas eaten in a 24 hour period. Taking part is simple – just eat a Fairtrade labelled banana between noon on March 6th and noon on March 7th, and the Foundation will do the rest. Of course, here at Ethical Superstore, we’ll be joining in with the record attempt.
I’m not sure if drinking a bottle of fairtrade labelled banana beer would count towards the world record attempt… but hey, there’s no harm in trying, is there? I am pretty sure it’dt be a great way to reintroduce my housemates to the joys of fair trade, given that booze is one thing that is certainly not being cut back on!
How have the current financial problems have affected your Fairtrade buying habits? Are you continuing to support the movement, or have you cut back to look after things closer to home? We’re really interested in your thoughts and experiences, please leave us a reply below!
Whatever you do, have a great Fair Trade Fortnight.