September 20 – The Power of Global Trade
Tina Newton, Manager of Worldly Goods

Our food did not come from a grocery store shelf.  Our clothes did not come from the rack at the major department store.  Everything we consume travels miles and miles, or even across the world, to get to us.  This may seem simple and obvious, but how often do we really stop to think about the sourcing of our goods?  Or what implications our purchases have on people around the world?

You know that little label in your new pair of shoes that says ‘Made in China?’  Have you ever stopped to ask yourself where in China it was made?  In which city?  At which factory (or even maybe ‘Gasp’ which sweatshop)?  To take things one step further, have you ever asked yourself “Who made your shoes?”

Who made your shoes?  It is an extremely important question that most of us don’t ask.  Whoever it was is probably a lot like you and me.  They work hard, want to put a roof over their heads, and food on the table, and raise happy, educated children.  Unfortunately, the reality is that people working in overseas factories often struggle to meet the most basic of needs.

As consumers we are trained to look for the lowest prices.  Unfortunately by paying low, low prices for our goods, that translates to low, low wages for those who produce our goods.  Human rights aren’t factored into the equation of price, and factory workers’ quality of life, work safety, and happiness are sacrificed so we can buy cheap goods.

The producers of our goods are on the other side of the globe and we don’t think about who they are or what their lives are like.  I challenge us all to start to think about them and how to improve their lives.  I don’t think most of us want to be in a position of power over other people.  If we become conscious consumers, we can start making purchases that improve the lives of others.  Organizations like Green America, Ten Thousand Villages and the Fair Trade Federation are great resources for raising our awareness as consumers.

Fair Trade is a very good option for shopping ethically.  Fair Trade allows us to shop with our hearts, not just our wallets.  Instead of stores maximizing profits while consumers minimize cost, Fair Trade looks at cost differently. The price of Fair Trade goods may be a little higher than larger retail stores, but this price reflects what is necessary to ensure human rights and dignity to the developing countries where our goods come from.  Fair Trade pays fair wages to people and makes sure people and the environment are put first, ahead of making a profit.

We can help bring about true change and true peace by making the choice to shop Fair Trade.  Next time you buy coffee, make sure it’s Fair Trade.  Next time you’re out shopping or browsing the internet, look for Fair Trade goods.  You’ll make a positive difference in the world if you do.

Tina Newton is the Manager of Worldly Goods, Ames’ only Fair Trade store, where she has worked, educated and made a difference toward building a peaceful, global community for nine years.