The Journey to Fair Trade and Christmas Shopping.

A few months ago I began trying to change my buying habits.

It all started with a post I did on Chocolate. I realized I had been doing a lot of talking about slavery within supply chains, but I still personally had not changed the way I buy.

Since then I have been doing my best to buy differently.

I started with Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Chocolate bar which is certified Fair Trade in Canada and several other countries (although still not in South Africa)

At Costco they are available for the same price as other cadbury chocolate bars.

Then I challenged myself to step it up a level and start buying only fair trade chocolate and coffee.

I had heard that Starbucks carries fair trade coffee and is one of the biggest buyers of fair trade in the world, so that was where I started.

The first Starbucks I asked for fair trade coffee had no idea what I was looking for. The second place told me that they carry the Estima blend coffee which is fair trade and is available a few times a week when they happen to be brewing it. This coffee shop did have the Estima blend on brew, so I got a cup of fair trade coffee.

The next starbucks I visited didn’t understand, and told me that Estima wasn’t fair trade. I decided to just get a yogurt.

I was getting confused. I know Fair Trade is not the answer to many of the issues within the supply chain, but it is a starting point, and I would rather start somewhere then ignore it completely.

After that I found a system that worked, sort of.

If the estima blend was not being brewed, I would ask the barista to grind a cup of fair trade coffee for french press, and order a coffee misto. This system worked great in San Francisco, and Vancouver. Unfortunately once you are out of the big city, at smaller Starbucks employees did not seem to get it.

One argued with my friend and practically refused to make her a french press, another said that we could not get fair trade by the cup. Although their website says differently.

While they buy 39 million pounds of fair trade coffee every year, I found this coffee was a lot harder for me to get my hands on then I would have expected.

And since fair trade isn’t the answer, I did find that Starbucks does have a plan:

"We aim to have 100% of our coffee certified 
or verified by an independent third party."

Sounds great, but in the meantime this was becoming a hassle, and I decided to avoid Starbucks for a while.

Along the way, I discovered a few smaller coffee shops who have fair trade coffee and espresso.

I also looked up Tim Hortons, and really like their page on coffee partnerships: http://www.timhortons.com/ca/en/difference/coffee-partnership.html

This weekend at the Vancouver Fair trade showcase, we got to try some amazing fair trade coffee from brands like Level Grounds and Ethical Bean who are really involved in the entire process of Coffee Production. They know where their beans come from, and they care about the farmers who are growing and harvesting.

And that for me was really what I learned this weekend at the Fair Trade event. For many of the organisations, fair trade was just a part of what they were doing. They genuinely cared about the people who produced the products they were selling. Many of them were funneling profits made back into the community, and by taking part in this event, we were touching lives of people all around the world who were being given a better chance at life!

The coffee was good, the chocolate was amazing, and many of the products are going to make original gifts! Fair trade may not be the answer, but it is definitely a step in the right direction to long term solutions, and it is something I am willing to make an extra effort to be a part of.

Wondering what kind of gifts you can give this Christmas that will help the lives of people around the world?

Check out the following FAIRTRADE brands or consider visiting the Not For Sale website, and giving the gift of Freedom this Christmas!

Ten Thousand Villages http://www.tenthousandvillages.ca/
African Fair Trade Society http://www.africanfairtradesociety.com/

Freedom Enterprises / Freeset http://www.befreedom.ca/

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