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. Continue reading

Not Everyone Knows…

I know. Many of my friends and family know. But the fact remains that there are still many people that we come in contact with don’t what Fair Trade is. This is a problem! It comes down to this; If we know of something good, we need to let others know about it. We need to share with others the good things we have experienced. We do this already with restaurants, movies & vacations spots. Lets just keep in mind that Fair Trade is something good that we can share with friends, family and complete strangers.

I had a Fair Trade education moment today as I was picking up a few groceries from Safeway after my evening run. I was going through the isles gathering a few things, (I only had a hand basket) when something on the shelf caught my eye, . Dr Bronner;s is the soap that I use now and it is Fair Trade certified by . To my knowledge, my local Safeway has just begun carrying this item. I usually buy this product from one of our other local grocery stores that carries a wide variety of Fair Trade goods. So needless to say I was surprised and excited to see Dr. Bronner’s on the shelf in Safeway. I threw a bar in my basket, as I was out of it at home, and headed to the checkout. See the Soap and read what happened next!

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

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.

Chocolate Has A Darker Side.

Do you know who handles your chocolate?

He was looking for Ali, the driver of the bus. The boy was Malian and no more than 10 years old. 100′s of miles away from home and separated from his family, he had no idea where he was. He had just spent hours on a bus traveling from the depot to the border town near the Ivory Coast. He was in the middle of a human trafficking ring that began in the bus depot and included the bus driver and a network of other transport
“professionals” that take the children all the way across the border and deliver them to the cocoa farms to work as slaves. This is the and the topic of a documentary of the same name by award winning Danish journalist Miki Mistarti.

On Wednesday Dec 14, the  featured a screening of this film in cooperation with at the Healdsburg High School’s Black Box Theater. You can watch the full documentary .

The film suggests that the dark side of chocolate is the wide use of child slaves to farm the cocoa. These children range in ages from as young as 8 all the way up to 19. In most cases there are no wages for these children as they can be bought for a few hundred dollars and used for an indefinite period of time. They sleep in wooden shacks, carry machetes to harvest the cocoa, wear no shoes and have no other safety equipment. They are girls and boys alike working as slaves in the Ivory Coast and many of them are initially trafficked from the country of Mali.

When I became aware of the issue of trafficked children in the chocolate industry I was faced with a decision to make. “Do I support companies that do not have transparency in the their supply chains and whose monitoring processes are inadequate, or do I support companies who know exactly where they are getting their product from?”

Divine Milk Chocolate

The choice was easy for me, I only want to support companies that know who handles their product from the farm where it’s grown to the merchant who sells it. It means that I have to change the way I do a few things but the chocolate does taste sweeter.of the brands that I buy at my local .

Nestle, Hershey’s, Barry Callebaut and Mars are some of the biggest perpetrators of the offense and all have major offices in the Ivory Coast to buy cocoa from the farms in that region. Watch the documentary and make an informed decision. Every purchase matters and we can let our purchase be our advocacy. It’s a simple thing buying Fair Trade chocolate but I feel better knowing that no one was in danger or forced to to make the thing that I enjoy.

We recently invited a group of students over to our house for an evening Christmas party. We were going to play the secret santa game, read some stories, and have dessert and hot coco. I noticed we didn’t have any hot coco in the house so I decided to run to the store to get some before the party. Because of the time I went to the closest store, our local Safeway. I knew our Safeway sold Fair Trade coffee and was hoping I would have some luck with coco as well. But this was not the case. Instead, there were 5 basic brands, the likes of which I’m sure are found in most grocery stores. There was the Safeway brand, which I must say I do not know anything about. The “local” Ghiradelli chocolate brand (local only because I live just north of San Francisco).  The flavored Starbucks brand. And the Hershey and Nestle brand. There were no Fair Trade offerings for hot chocolate at this Safeway.

So which one to buy in the pinch. Like I said, I didn’t know anything about the Safeway brand so I chose to leave that one on the shelf. When it comes to Hersey’s and Nestle I can no longer bring myself to buy any products put out by these two manufacturers. Both Hershey’s and Nestle get a D+/D grade on the app and Hershey’s is said to be the rest of the cocoa industry when it comes to supply chain transparency.  That left me with Ghiradelli and Starbucks. Ghiradelli gets a C- grade from Free2Work and Starbucks is not on the list. I know Starbucks does have 2 Fair Trade labels in their lineup of coffee so I thought they might be the better choice for the time being. So I did it, I bought the Starbucks brand Hot Chocolate but I left feeling unsatisfied.

The bottom line is that I now need to find where I can buy Fair Trade Certified Hot Chocolate here in my town. I have two options, and . Both of these markets sell a wide range of Fair Trade goods and I am confident I will be able to find what I am looking for there.

Is it really that big of a deal though? We’re talking about hot chocolate here… The problem for me is that once I am aware  that the products I use could have been produced by slave or child labor, I feel a responsibility to choose a different product. And in doing so, I feel empowered. I can choose something different. I can show what I believe in by what I choose to buy.