Share the LoveBy Nancy Powell
Nothing says “I love you” more romantically than a bouquet of roses and a box of chocolates, but where and how you get it says a lot about the love you have for your fellow humans. According to research firm MarketsandMarkets (in a reported cited by CNN in January 2012), chocolate is an $83 billion-a-year industry with most of it being eaten by Europeans (yes, the Brits, Swiss and German eat an average 24 pounds!). And Valentine’s Day provides a huge economic stimulus to the U.S. (58 million pounds sold within the space of the week, according to the CNN report) for three-quarters of a crop grown on West African soil exploiting child labor, consuming only three percent of the crop and generating a ridiculous .0075 percent profit that goes back into community improvements. A family member working in the cocoa fields brings home anywhere from $30 to $108 each year.
Let’s shift to the other obvious V-Day industry, the sweetly smelling bouquet of roses, a symbol of ephemeral beauty whose journey to market involves a less than rosy path. Traditional growing methods utilize a vaporous cocktail of pesticides, endangering not only consumers’ senses, but the very workers who grow them. This time, the dirty job happens to reside on South American farms. Is this really the way we wish to honor those we hold so dear?
This is where the dollar really has some impact. The concept of “fair trade” ensures that people supplying these products (tea and sugar are other, well-known, exploitative commodities) get a fair share of the profits and receive dignified and equitable treatment at the hands of its buyers. Fair trade creates a more direct route to market by eliminating the middle men who siphon off the profits. Think of it as economic and social justice, an attempt to give power back to the people and allow them the opportunity to make a decent living, to decide how profits will benefit communities and to control how foods and plants are grown using sustainable methods. If you want your Valentine’s gift to really count, consider doing business through fair trade. After all, what’s good for the community is good for the environment . . . and good for the people you love the most.
For more information about fair trade products and merchants, visit Fair Trade USA at www.fairtradeusa.org.