How to Introduce Students to Fair Trade Goods

The “Fair Trade” movement has gained steam in recent years as consumers – dismayed by greed and lack of quality control in large multi-national conglomerates – have opened their minds to the importance of buying goods that promote a sustainable environment, equality and prevention of the exploitation of foreign workers.

In general, Fair Trade companies employ ethical business practices that ensure a living wage for laborers, eliminate middlemen and promote safe and healthy work conditions, respect for cultural identity and community development. In many cases proceeds from Fair Trade sales go to support specific programs including health and education outreach in marginalized communities. Better known as fair trade goods.

The movement began in the 1970s but picked up steam in the late 1990s and has continued to grow. Fair trade goods once consisted mostly of coffee and tea, but the industry has expanded to include many other products including: Chocolate and cocoa, sugar and spices, wine, cotton, artwork, clothing, fruit juices, rice and other grains, handcrafted items and many more.

But with so much intense competition from Walmart and other giant retailers who buy in extreme bulk to hold prices down for consumers, how do you get this message across to students?

There are a number of programs currently available that – to one degree or another – introduce Fair Trade practices into schools.

The Fair Trade Federation is one of the top tier organizations involved in school-based Fair Trade programs. Their programs allow groups to forgo selling donuts, candles or candy as fundraisers, and instead employ Fair Trade products. The federation contributes $3 for every bag of coffee sold. Other programs include “Equal Exchange” platforms where the fundraising group sells organic foods, gifts and recycled cotton gift wrap and retain 40 percent of proceeds.

Oxfam International is another great resource for gaining a better understanding of the principles behind Fair Trade and companies where goods can be purchased to support related work.

The Fair Trade Resource Network covers every aspect of Free Trade with the purpose of promoting and growing the movement worldwide. Everything from background of the movement, to reputable companies, networking and other important aspects are covered. The resource network also includes valuable teaching tools to include Fair Trade principles in everyday classroom lessons.

The Internet has introduced a great deal of information about Fair Trade to everyday people who otherwise would not likely have the resources to find out about and join the movement. Using these tools and introducing the next generations of consumers to ethical purchasing patterns will help to strengthen the world’s economies and promote a sustainable future.

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