The decision between buying Fair Trade vs. local, as far as I’m concerned, is a decision between buying better vs. better. Both buying practices are rooted in knowing where your money is being spent and the impact on community.
As a buyer for the Global Exchange Fair Trade Stores, I strongly support Fair Trade as an alternative to international trade policies that promote the exploitation of workers and degradation of environment. I also recognize that investment in local food and craftsmanship is what keeps our communities thriving (not to mention reduces our dependency on fossil fuels).
That’s why it was such a difficult decision to drop a line of local product from our Fair Trade Store in San Francisco in order to meet the Fair Trade Federation mandate.
According to the Fair Trade Federation (FTF): “Items sourced in the Global North are not considered sourced under Fair Trade Federation Principles, because producers/artisans/farmers in the Global South face greater economic and social difficulties, as well as greater structural barriers to sustainable development – resulting in greater economic and social marginalization.”
As a founding member of the FTF, we support this standard and realize that our work as a Fair Trade retailer is most importantly to provide market access to small-scale producers in the Global South.
What we are losing: We just got in our last shipment of Fire & Light colored glass tableware handmade in Arcata, CA. We love Fire & Light because they are revolutionarily local, sourcing their glass from residential recycling bins and hand-pouring each piece. The result is an incredibly unique tableware that is durable and rich in color & light…it literally glows. I’m tempted to get a set before we sell out. Come get it at the Global Exchange Store in San Francisco while you still can!
What we continue to support: We continue to carry product sourced from economically and socially marginalized communities in the Global North, like Sweet Dreams eye-pillows handmade in San Francisco by the young women leaders of Turning Heads.
As a community member, I know it is a critical time to support local business and I choose to invest in the work of local artists, available at small businesses and craft fairs throughout our city. Shout outs to our neighbors in Noe Valley at Isso, where you can find the best jeans made in San Francisco; Loft 1513 owned and operated by the designers it features; and Easy Breezy serving up delicious locally sourced Straus frozen yogurt.
Our decision to support Fair Trade is not a decision between good vs. bad buying practices, but a decision to focus on what we do best: providing you the opportunity to support craftsmanship and community in the Global South through Fair Trade.