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Does Fair Trade Mean Environmentally Sustainable?

Almost every morning my wake-up ritual is the same. I reluctantly rise out of bed, make the concious decision to bypass the snooze option on my alarm, fumble for my glasses and make a bee-line to the percolator to brew up a life-saving dose of our Cafe Ribera organic coffee (which still amazes me by it’s subtle cocoa flavor, how does that squeeze in there?). Then, I check my email and browse my favorite websites for news and events.

A staple of my morning peruse is Slate is an internet news hybrid of my two favorite traditional news sources National Public Radio, and the Washington Post. Today, the weekly environmental column “The Green Lantern” examined the environmental sustainability claim of the Fair Trade Certification program in it’s article Is Fair Trade Green?

The article thoroughly examined the actual requirements for fair trade certification, compared to what most consumers see as the implications of such a certification. It also does a good job of showing which types of products should be bought locally here in the U.S. instead of having them air freighted in from far off places, increasing their carbon footprint. If you’re shopping for “fair trade” products, kudos to you! You are a socially responsible consumer and should be applauded. You should also know what to look out for in your quest to become a truly sustainable consumer.

Fair trade certification really focuses on fair labor practices, not necessarily environmentally sustainable practices. Our Cafe Ribera and Conuco Reserve Fair Trade cocoa and cacao beans are not only fair trade certified, but also USDA certified organic. Fair Trade certification does not require products to be organic, though it endorses the practice. Make sure that your products are also certified organic; only USDA organic certification ensures that the farms practice environmentally sustainable farming techniques in addition to whatever fair labor certification they might have.

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