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Archive for Sunday, May 11, 2008

Worldwide coffee break helps promote fair trade

Michael Bradley, center, and Rachael Perry, right, both of Lawrence, chat while drinking coffee Saturday during the Two Hands Worldshop coffee break at Watson Park. The coffee break was one of many throughout the country today to try to break the world record for the biggest simultaneous coffee break ever. The break was to celebrate World Fair Trade Day and to raise awareness about Fair Trade for farmers, consumers and the environment.

Michael Bradley, center, and Rachael Perry, right, both of Lawrence, chat while drinking coffee Saturday during the Two Hands Worldshop coffee break at Watson Park. The coffee break was one of many throughout the country today to try to break the world record for the biggest simultaneous coffee break ever. The break was to celebrate World Fair Trade Day and to raise awareness about Fair Trade for farmers, consumers and the environment.

May 11, 2008

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On a chilly Saturday, a Lawrence couple were warming up with a mug of fair trade coffee at Watson Park.

Brady Swenson and his wife, Alicia Erickson, invited others to join them and also to warm up to the idea of supporting fair trade products.

The couple started Two Hands Worldshop, which offers handmade goods that are fair trade certified by the Fair Trade Federation, two years ago.

They hosted Saturday's event, "Fair Trade Coffee Break," which was part of World Fair Trade Day, to raise global awareness about the benefits of fair trade and how it affects farmers, consumers and the environment.

Worldwide, at least 5,000 people were needed to attend similar events to break a world record for the world's largest simultaneous coffee break.

Fair trade is an alternative way of doing business focused on eliminating global poverty by promoting fair wages and working conditions in developing countries that produce products such as coffee, sugar and crafts.

"Fair trade's important for several reasons," Swenson said. "To meet the fair trade criteria, first of all we have to pay producers of coffee more. We give them a premium, which they then use for community development purposes, building hospitals, improving infrastructure, things like that."

Secondly, fair trade is linked with sustainability and organic production, he said.

"A lot of the coffee plantations that are producing fair trade coffee are also producing it organically, which helps the environment and people working in fields because there's no chemicals," he said.

About 25 people came out in support of the day and for the love for coffee.

Dirk and Laura Felleman, of Lawrence, had their cup of joe and received a free organic bag full of fair trade goodies from a raffle. Dirk Felleman said they support the concept of fair trade and try to buy fair trade products when possible.

"In general, I think we're thinking more about where our money is going," he said.

Comments

aerickson 6 years, 5 months ago

Along with the information provided by Brady, the Fair Trade Federation offers an objective third-party membership only for companies willing to commit 100% to the many Fair Trade criteria. Without an independent certification system that maintains strict regulations, there is little way for the consumer to put faith in this movement. Since each consumer cannot travel and verify the working conditions for themselves, they must rely on an independent group for this. For this to succeed it does take some funding to ensure every step along the chain is truly following Fair Trade, achieved through membership dues based upon revenue. While I understand the concern that companies will take advantage of this movement, the Fair Trade Federation and its members work very hard to counter and prevent this.Sincerely,Alicia EricksonTwo Hands Worldshop

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Brady Swenson 6 years, 5 months ago

Hi Fishman, Thanks for posting your concerns here. The Fair Trade Federation, which we are a member of, is a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, with very little resources. Carmen Iezzi, the young woman who works very hard to promote the idea of Fair Trade, is the only full time employee of the Fair Trade Federation and makes a modest salary for the job market in which she works. She does the work because she believes in it. Also, our dues for Two Hands Worldshop membership are only $150 per year, hardly enough to keep the organization running or enough of an incentive to simply let us in without a thorough background check. We filled out a long application and answered an extended questionnarie from the Fair Trade Federation board detailing the cooperatives we work with, their production methods and working conditions, how much we pay for the products we import, etc. We believe in transparency so consumers know where the products they are buying from us are coming from. Please see our website where we list the producers of every product on the product's detail page. http://twohandsworldshop.com. This organization is small , only about 500 members, and all members are dedicated to 100% Fair Trade, ethically sourced products. The standards are strict and they are kept. I would encourage anyone to investigate for themselves as we have nothing to hide. And that's the way it should be!Again, thanks for voicing your concerns and I'm very happy to hear of your support for ethical trade!Sincerely,Brady SwensonTwo Hands Worldshop

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Fishman 6 years, 5 months ago

Our company believes in fair trade for sure. Please see this link to see what it really takes to join the Fair Trade Organiztion. I kind of doubt too many people get turned down that write a nice check for their dues every year. http://www.fairtradefederation.org/ht/d/sp/i/1725/pid/1725 Our company does a little over $400,000.00 per year in sales, and all of our products come from Peru. $750.00 for dues per year we believe only equals that someone in the Fair Trade organization must be living pretty well at the expense of someone in Peru. We therefore are NOT Fair Trade certified, however we are most likely more fair trade than at least 90% of the companies that are on their list. We the people that work hands on with the people in Peru are really the only people that can be sure that things are fair trade or not. That $750.00 in dues goes a long way to helping someone in Peru alot more than some person working for Fair Trade here, believe me!!! We travel there, we know the people, and care more about them than the people collecting dues in the United States. So while I am all for treating people right, I'd like to know how much the heads of the Fair Trade Organization here are making per year! It's unfortunately not so altruistic as you think. Nobody works in a sweatshop, and our machine made garments actually employ people that have health insurance. We on the other hand can only afford major medical here. We pay a little bit more for the things we buy which are crafts, and although that is not alot, it is more than they are receiving from others. They are always happy to see us. Personally, I'd much rather put that $750.00 per year DIRECTLY in the pockets of those that need the money, and not line the pocket of someone I'll never meet here in the United States. Our suitcases are loaded with things to give away every time we travel to Peru. That $750.00 buys a ton of toys at garage sales, and other things they need that we will take to the mountains of Peru in December so that the people that make things for us have toys to give to their kids and other things they need to make their life just a little easier. Another example of good marketing on whoever started the Fair Trade Organization. You should really be ashamed of yourself while you sit in your fancy house.

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