People Unseen

“I pity a man who wants a coat so cheap that the man or woman who produces the cloth will starve in the process.”

Benjamin Harrison,23rd President of The United States

I was trying to find some funny quotes on pity the other day to make a comment on a friends Facebook page when I came across this quote from Benjamin Harrison. It immediately made me think of the principles of Fair Trade and the journey I have been on over the past 2 years. It got me thinking about the different ways we treat people and how that treatment may differ based on two categories: people we see and people we don’t.

I’m sure most of us have seen people in desperation, people begging for assistance. In my community they can be seen on a bench outside the local Safeway playing some type of musical instrument with an open container at their feet that has a few coins or bills in it. They are frequently seen at the stop light at the exit of the Wal Mart & Home Depot shopping center with a myriad of different signs all requesting bits of others excess.

We all have different ways of reacting to this encounter. Some completely ignore. Others strive to make eye contact and at least offer a friendly hello while others rationalize that if they “give” the person may use it for something destructive like drugs or alcohol. Some may say, “If the light is red, then I’ll give some change if I have it. But if it is green, then I can’t hold up traffic, so I’ll give a nod that says ‘Id like to help but I have to keep moving right now’.” One thing I feel is certain; that when we see someone in desperation begging, regardless of whether we can/will assist or not, it still makes us think about what it would be like if that were us. And there again is another contrast. For some,we whisper the prayer, “Thank God I’m not like them.” For others of us we think of what it would be like to be in that persons shoes and how we would feel when people pass us by.

I can write about this because I have said, felt and thought each of these different responses. I’ve had to wrestle with the question of how I should respond to the request for my time, energy and resources. It is a valid struggle and one I feel we must engage in. We must know how we will respond and have reasons for doing so. Another equally valid and important struggle is whether or not to apply this same rational for responding to the people I “see” in desperation to the people I do not see but “know” are in desperation. And this is where the aforementioned quote is applicable.

What if, in my pursuit to be frugal and economical, another is harmed to accommodate my request? I am sure that most would find this to be unacceptable. However, we most often do not choose to apply the same rational of how we should “treat others” to the people we do not see. But, attached and associated with everything we see IS a person. Someone is behind making, producing, growing and delivering everything you and I consume. And how they are treated and what accommodations they are afforded should matter to me before I take ownership of something.

Benjamin Harrison basically said that he pitied a man, who in pursuit of frugality, caused another person to starve, or in other words, to suffer greatly in some way. To pity means to have “sympathetic or kindly sorrow evoked by the suffering,distress, or misfortune of another, often leading one to give relief or aid or to show mercy.” To me this is saying that Benjamin Harrison felt sorrow for the frugal man because of the suffering and distress he was causing another person, not because he was trying to be frugal. And also that it led him to show mercy to the one suffering and maybe to show mercy to the one causing suffering as well by providing an alternative.

So where does this leave us? I feel that there are many people who are beginning to associate the things they have with the people who make it possible for us to have them. It is equally important to treat people seen and people unseen with dignity and respect. If a thing cannot be had without another suffering to make our ownership of it possible, then it is certainly not worth having. And if this principle is important to us, we must show mercy to those suffering at the hands of others by choosing a different way than what is currently acceptable, a way that recognizes people unseen and treats them fairly. We must also show mercy to those who may cause suffering, though their actions may be due to ignorance, by compassionately urging them to consider their actions and think of people unseen.


Fair Trade Resource Network » Photo Contest – Details

2013 Fair Trade Calendar: Enter the Fair Trade Photo Contest June 1-26

From Fair Trade Resource Network

Submit photos – June 1-26Vote for photos – June 27 to July 16Guidelines – Contest rules and photo specificationsOrder 2013 Fair Trade Calendar – Early-bird discountsContact Us – contest administratorWinning photos from last year – some photos voted as winners last yearSubmit Photos June 1-26, 2012Read below for contest “Guidelines/Eligibility” to make sure your photos qualify for this contest.Email each photo, with a caption up to 50 words , to FTRN will not post your name, email address, nor a photo title. Each photo must have a resolution of 300 dpi at 5 x 7 inches. For best quality in printed calendar, the photo should have resolution of 300 dpi at 9.5 x 14.5 inches.  Photo must be in one of these formats: jpg, tiff, pdf. Your accompanying caption should include location photo was taken, name of individuals pictured as much as possible, and relation of photo subject to Fair Trade.Pay submission fee of $10/photo at FTRN’s Online Store. Pay using Paypal or a Credit Card. Photo submissions are $10 per photo; you may submit as many photos as you want. 1 photo costs $10, 5 photos costs $50, etc.. Within 2 business days of receiving your payment, your photos will appear on the Photo Contest page.

via .

“Best in Fair Trade” Awards Open for Nominations of Business & Nonprofits

Fair Trade Resource Network has launched “Best in Fair Trade” Awards for N. America nonprofits & businesses. The public can nominate (by March 31), and vote, for U.S. & Canada organizations doing exemplary work in Fair Trade in 5 categories:

  • Most positive change in a producer community;
  • Outstanding long-term commitment to producers;
  • Best support of the Fair Trade movement;
  • Most effective public education program;
  • Most effective advocacy for trade policy reform.

FTRN created the contest since no awards existed to honor organizations across all major Fair Trade recognitions. Winners will be celebrated during World Fair Trade Day in May!

, or , nonprofits and businesses before March 31. The public will then for any finalists during April.


“Not For Sale” Partners w/ Eileen Fisher to end Slavery


At the heart of Fair Trade is the desire for people to be treated fairly. Producers and farmers should be paid a fair price for their products. No one should be forced to grow or pick anything I eat or … Continue reading

A Step in the Right Direction

It’s simple to think about but harder to actually put into practice at times. I’m going for it though! I’m searching for new ways to live a Fair Trade lifestyle. It’s not about huge, crazy, radical restructuring of my life. It’s getting to that, but to put in more simpler terms, it’s about choosing differently about how I’m going to spend my money. Today, it’s about Flip Flops.

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Read more about Autonomie Project here!

I Thought Fair Trade Was Better

This was supposed to the Valentines Day that I went all in with Fair Trade. I wanted to do something special and unique for my wife and I didn’t want to just go down to the store and get something. I wanted it all to be Fair Trade.

I located on the web and saw that they were having a special on “ Certified” roses.Everything looked good! Lets remember however, that I am a man and I was doing this on Monday the 13th. So I called the company to see what the deadline was for getting the roses shipped out and delivered on Valentines Day. It was confirmed that if I placed the order by noon my time I would have it on my doorstep on Valentines Day. So I placed the order: $50 for 2 dozen assorted roses and almost $20 for the shipping. Continue reading

Show Me Your Label: A Guide To Fair Trade Labels

Have you ever wondered what exactly to look for when trying to buy Fair Trade? It can  be a little confusing to decipher the labels or perceived rhetoric about “Fair Trade” and get down to finding the actual products available in the market. But once you know what to look for, it actually becomes quite easy.

Certified Fair Trade products are not available in every type of merchandise that we may think of. There is a small but comparable list of things available at this point and the best way to find those products is by looking for the “label”. The above photo is a collage of all the Certified Fair Trade and Fair Trade related logos that I am aware of. What is to follow is a listing of each logo and a brief description of what they mean and information about the parent organization. I hope you’ll find this helpful and that it may take some of the guesswork out of shopping Fair Trade.

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See All Labels and Continue Reading Here!

Oliver’s Market: The View From A Fair Trade Shopper


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Oliver’s is a market with three storefronts in the Sonoma County area. I recently visited the store and cataloged the items the store carries that are Certified Fair Trade. While these items are stocked on the shelves at Oliver’s they are available in other markets as well such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. The purpose of this post is to give you a visual to assist you in finding these products at a market near you.

As for, it is one that seems to be concerned with high quality products and support of the local community. It boast a wide variety of Fair Trade products and a giant selection of local goods. The company  declares, “Our mission is to provide the communities we serve with the finest grocery store in the marketplace.To this end, we seek out our customers’ specific needs and tailor our products and services to meet those needs.We carry the largest possible selection of natural, conventional and gourmet products. We carry only the highest quality meat, produce and deli products, buying locally whenever possible.”

Here is a list of the Certified Fair Trade Products that I found… See All Products and Continue Reading Here!

The Changing Face of Starbucks Fair Trade Coffee’s

Is Starbucks fair trade? If you ask this in a Starbucks store, many times you will get a “yes”  from one of the barista’s. If you ask the average person on the street they may not know. And as for me, my answer is a little mixed. No, they are not a Fair Trade company. They do, however, carry a fair trade labeled coffee.

To get into the debate about whether or not Starbucks is good or evil is not what I want to do here. I know that many people choose Starbucks as there shop of choice and that many in the world of Fair Trade choose not to support Starbucks. My goal is to provide those who frequent Starbucks with knowledge and options and encourage a Fair Trade choice.

Starbucks does in fact carry a Fair Trade labeled coffee, although it can be hard to find and it has recently changed. If you are familiar with the coffee giant you may recognize their fair trade coffee as . It was a multi-region, dark roast blend that was available on most of their coffee shop shelves. This line, however, has been discontinued in stores and is now only available on-line. Starbucks has recently introduced a whole new line of roasts and has added a new line of Fair Trade Certified coffee as well: theThe Italian roast, like the line it replaces, is a multi-region dark roast and should be available on most Starbucks store shelves. It may or may not make its way into a grocery store near you.

So just to be clear, the Italian Roast is the only line of Starbucks coffee that is Certified Fair Trade. From their , Starbucks says, ”As one of the largest purchasers of Fair Trade Certified™ coffee, Starbucks is committed to paying fair prices to help give farming families a better life and ensure coffee farms are protected for the future.” Because Starbucks is a giant corporation it is not hard to see that it does in fact buy a large amount of Fair Trade coffee but it only puts that coffee into one line that it sells in its stores.

The good news for Starbucks goers is that there is more than one way to get your hands on some Italian Roast Fair Trade coffee. 1) Consider substituting the Italian Roast for another Starbucks coffee that you purchase and make at home. Most stores should carry the 1lb bags of this roast on their shelves. 2) If not available at your local store, check out. 3) If the store you frequent has a “Clover” machine, ask the barista to brew you a fresh cup with the Italian Roast. All stores should accommodate this request and I have had a “Clover” cup of the Italian Roast in the Healdsburg store. 4) If there is no Clover machine, ask them to brew you a french press cup with the Italian Roast instead. Again, most stores should be willing to accommodate your request and it is more common than you might think.

Is Starbucks as a company Certified Fair Trade? No, but they do carry a Fair Trade Certified line of coffee and it’s possible for you get it in beans, grounds, or freshly brewed at your local store. It’s different than you may remember, no longer Cafe Estima,  but rather Italian Roast. So if you are keen on trying new things, ask for a Clover or french press of this Fair Trade coffee next you visit a Starbucks. And if you were wondering why Starbucks no longer carried the Cafe Estima, now you know that they were not discontinuing all things Fair Trade, but rather changing to a different roast.

Only available on-line

Discovery, Exploration and Where I’ve Been Lately.

I have realized a few things in the past few weeks not the least of which is that I am committed to discovering how I can be more conscientious about the way I spend my money. Just a few days ago, while I was in a Big Box store, I found myself thinking about “something that I needed”. It was really just something that I wanted and I found myself heading down the isle where this thing lived. As I made the turn a thought came to mind. I think it is a quote but I’m not sure who said it and I know it didn’t come from my own head. The realization was, “The more stuff we have the more clubs we need to defend it”. I didn’t need the thing anymore. For one, I didn’t have any room in my cart for clubs and for another, I have enough already. I turned my cart around and went in search of the necessities.

I have not posted anything in a while but I’ve been active in a process of discovery; mainly discovering just what Fair Trade goods are available in my area. It’s been fun to drop into a store that I’ve never been to and traverse the isles in search of “the labels”. Which, by the way, I realize that I need to post a list and description of these labels so others know that to look for.

These are not the only labels

I’ve discovered new stores carrying a wide range of Fair Trade products and I’ve met some great people curious about what I am doing and committed to Fair Trade as well. I tell them that I blog about Fair Trade and that I am trying to find what products are available in my area so I can let others know. This is leading me to another post about what specifically is available in the Sonoma County area – coming soon. Through this process I’ve photographed all the Fair Trade items in stores such as Surf Supermarket, Gualala Supermarket, Safeway, Shelton’s Market, Oliver’s Market, Harvest Market and Big John’s Market. I’m heading to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods next. I’ve also been into a toy store, a few cafe’s and some stores that sell mostly Fair Trade goods. When you know what you are looking for, it’s pretty easy to spot.

My family recently spent some time on the Mendocino Coast in Northern Ca. While I was there I took the time document what the area had to offer in the way of Fair Trade. It was a wonderful time of discovery and meeting new people. I visited the markets in the towns of Point Arena, Gualala, Mendocino and Fort Bragg. I visited the coffee shop in Mendocino owned by Thanksgiving Coffee and spoke to the Co-Founder and former president of Thanksgiving Coffee. She made me a mocha, by the way, that was simply amazing. I’ve put all the places on my map for you to find if you happen to be traveling in this area and want to know where to find Fair Trade products.

I’ve also been looking for other ways to be a more responsible shopper. I currently use the app on my phone (which I’ll provide some more info on later) and I recently purchased “” by Ellis Jones. I know that much of what I own is not Fair Trade Certified and I am discovering that much of it is not even ethically sourced. I’m not going to throw it all away and be wasteful but I am going to make sure that I replace it with goods made by companies whose business practices are ethical.

I’ve also discovered in the past few weeks how life can just get away from you. Getting back to work after the holidays takes a period of transition for some of us. There is so much going on and it’s easy to slip into routine and doing what is easiest. And as such, it’s been a few weeks since I have posted anything. But for me, the idea of Fair Trade is more than just a blog or feeling good about the chocolate that I am eating. It’s about living my life “Fairly”. And I want that way of living to permeate every aspect of my life. It’s a learning process and I have lots of room for growth but I’m moving in that direction.

It feels good to get these thoughts “down on paper” and to get the information about what I’ve found out to others. Mentioning that I’m going to post something soon helps keep me accountable to this process that I’ve said I’m committed to (I’m easily distracted). So until next time, Grace and Peace to you, let’s be fair.