Conscious Consumerism – Why go Fairtrade?

Are you a Conscious Consumer?

To achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, each one of us must take part in creating a sustainable world. A simple, yet effective, way to live sustainably is to become a conscious consumer by purchasing Fairtrade certified products. With Fairtrade Fortnight right around the corner, what better time than now? Fairtrade Fortnight runs from the 26th of February – 11th of March to honour Fairtrade farmers and food industry workers.

What is Fairtrade & Fairtrade Fortnight?

Fairtrade Fortnight spotlights goods that go through an ethical and sustainable production cycle: they are social, environmentally, and economically responsible. In other words, they follow strict standards on working conditions, not using Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), and many more. Since 1997, Fairtrade Fortnight events have highlighted the benefits of buying Fairtrade certified goods throughout the world.

In Ireland and the UK, Fairtrade goods are certified through the Fairtrade Foundation. The Fairtrade Foundation certifies Fairtrade products and increases public awareness on how Fairtrade improves global trade. Products and ingredients are certified through independent checks covering the entire supply chain: from farmer, to worker, to company. The only way for a product to carry the Fairtrade logo is for all ingredients to follow their strict standards.

Why Buy Fairtrade Certified Goods?

“Fairtrade is a bridge between producers and consumers. Sometimes the trading process is not as fair as it seems. Fairtrade takes into account a variety of conditions to make trade have equal benefits and responsibilities for all the participants. It means better prices to the producers that cover the costs of production, loan access, and long-term commercial relationships. All these elements are essential in the development of a small‐holder organisation.”

-Oscar González Coomprocom R.L , Cooperativa Multisectorial de Productores de Café Orgánico de Matagalpa (Multisectoral Co-op of Organic Coffee Producers of Matagalpa) while visiting local primary schools in Ballymun in 2010

The Fairtrade system reduces poverty throughout the world by bringing together millions of farmers in favour of fair wages. It allows farmers and workers to have a voice in improving their own and their communities’ standards of lives. They do this by establishing cooperatives in their communities to increase their negotiating power in the supply chain. This enables them to bargain for higher wages and provide healthier livelihoods for their families. This global alliance encourages farmers to learn key organic growing skills from each other. Beyond that, farmers learn how to transition to environmentally friendly practices, including but not limited to creating nutrient-rich soil.

Ultimately, this helps the environment as Fairtrade standards include key areas like energy and greenhouse gas emission reduction, soil and water quality, pest management, biodiversity protection, prohibition of GMOs and harmful chemicals and waste management.

Fairtrade in Ireland

There is a wide variety of Fairtrade goods available in Ireland. They range from coffee, bananas, tea, sugar, cocoa products, cotton, textiles, wine, cosmetics and so much more. Better yet, they are accessible through a variety of supermarkets and speciality stores throughout the country. Fairtrade Ireland even created a guide (featured to the right) that lists currently certified products and where to find them!

Over the years, public awareness throughout Ireland of Fairtrade was at 78% in 2012; double the EU average! The Fairtrade initiative has grown to include Fairtrade Towns. Fairtrade towns help tackle poverty by helping producers from developing countries to receive a better deal in local shops. As of March 2014, there were 51 Fairtrade towns and 23 groups working towards having their towns be certified. Clonakilty, Co. Cork was the first Fairtrade Town in Ireland and has been so for 15 years!

Fairtrade in Ballymun

In 2006, GAP Ireland mobilized the Ballymun community to help it become the first Fairtrade Town in Dublin City. To do this, we partnered with Ballymun Regeneration Ltd., and the Ballymun Fairtrade Steering Committee. This success continues to grow as schools such as Holy Spirit Girls’ National School have joined become Fairtrade Schools.

GAP Ireland has co-hosted numerous events in honour of Fairtrade in the Ballymun community. These events have included an All-You-Can-Eat Banana Eating Contest, Fairtrade Coffee mornings, screening of Fairtrade documentary film nights an annual Fairtrade football game between the local Youth Projects, and a Fairtrade Cotton Bunting competition where primary schools in the area told the Fairtrade story through the cotton bunting. All of these efforts paid off when Ballymun won Fairtrade Town of the Year in 2009 for sustaining regular Fairtrade practices in the community.

It’s clear that the people of Ireland are choosing to be conscious consumers, so this Fairtrade Fortnight, will you join them?