A few weeks ago I did a pretty nifty post on cruelty-free products, and it got me thinking about other classifications of gift ideas with a bit of heart & soul behind them. In the past I’ve talked about vegan-friendly and charitable donation gifts, but today I thought I’d hone in on fair trade ideas. You’ve probably heard this buzz phrase over the last decade, but if you’re still a little fuzzy on it, let me fill you in.
Here in first world countries like Canada, the demand for certain products is extremely high – and we demand extremely low prices. Major corporations will often contract out residents of third world countries to help them fill their quotas at the maximum profit possible. This is troublesome for a few reasons. First of all, it means we’re not really considering the environmental impacts of stripping the earth of materials (like wood) or consumer goods (like coffee beans) to name a few – out of sight, out of mind right? A company that practices fair trade will give these tradespeople a better compensation package so they aren’t constantly forced to exhaust their land (and themselves).
Secondly, it creates an unfair competitive disadvantage for the farmers or labourers or craftspeople. They aren’t rewarded for producing a better product, they’re simply forced to make quotas. Let’s say you’re a farmer trying to do right – by avoiding pesticides or letting one of your fields lay fallow, in exchange for a lower yield – it won’t take much for a greedy conglomerate to simply shred your contact when you don’t hit targets. Fair trade is about building long-term, ongoing relationships with individuals and small businesses.
In some cases, the production of goods could even fall into the sweatshop category – fair trade also means you’re buying sweatshop-free goods that have been produced in a safe and healthy environment. Another consideration in a lot of fair trade practices is giving women a fair chance to become financially independent by starting their own businesses – typically craftspeople. This helps disadvantaged women around the world become more educated, and establish themselves apart from what are oftentimes quite male-dominated cultures.
There are several organizations in the world that will actually certify fair trade goods, but to this point I wouldn’t necessarily say one is leading the others. Generally speaking though, know that when you’re buying fair trade, you can actually feel good about where it came from. Today’s gift guide is all about fair trade products you can buy right here in Canada, all of which happen to make lovely gift ideas. And, for the record, you may want to start taking a look in your cupboards and bags to see which of your goods are fair trade – and if they’re not, ask the company that produces them why.
Creative Women Dashed Azure Tablecloth – $128 @ Anthropologie
I think this would make a lovely wedding gift, don’t you? Hand-stitched in shades of beautiful cornflower blue and turquoise, this table cloth is a gorgeous accent for anyone’s dining room, providing a neutral yet striking template to place your tableware on. The handwoven tablecloth comes all the way from Ethiopia, where the artisans of Creative Women are supported by your purchase to both preserve the art of hand-stitching and encourage female enterprises to flourish.
Capiz Shell Wind Chimes & Chandelier – $18 – $54 @ Connected Goods
I can tell you right now, I have lights made of capiz shells in my home and they are the most beautiful things. Not only do they reflect the light beautifully and look super modern, when the wind is blowing a soft breeze through my house, they let out a gentle tinkling sound that will make you feel like you’re in a beachside cabana by the ocean, and not cooking up dinner in the kitchen. These three gorgeous pieces all come from a workshop (not a sweatshop) in Bali that strives to have the lowest carbon footprint possible, in part by practicing extreme adherence to sustainable tactics. The wind chimes work for just about anyone that loves to lounge on their back porch or could use a little sprucing up in their garden, while the chandelier (centre) is a fun pick for a friend with a funky flair for design.
Inca Peru Patterned Ballet Flats – $88 each @ EarthLover
Proof that fair trade can be fashionable: these handwoven and on-trend mini-wedges are an eye-popping addition to any gal’s wardrobe, at a price comparable to what you’d pay at say, Aldo, for a similar, mass-produced style. Not only are these a great way to put a personal stamp on your style, they’re also made with pretty high-quality materials, including real leather insoles, thick and durable Inca textiles, and a real wooden wedge. Hook up your mom or sister for her birthday or Christmas with a pair! Fair warning: the site I found these on is a little cost prohibitive when it comes to shipping – but think of it as an anti-sweatshop stand and you won’t regret it.
Telephone Wire Baskets – $15.95 – $179.95 @ Fair Trade Decor
Apparently telephone wire weaving has been a longstanding artisan tradition in the Zulu communities of Africa, one that has made a big design splash over in North America in the last few years. It’s genuinely hard to believe these durable, washable, eye-catching pieces of tableware are actually woven by hand using repurposed materials – and you can get them in a ton of styles and colours. Whether you want earth tones to represent their African origin as picture above, a spirited rainbow palette to liven up the dinner table, or a soothing ocean collection to match with almost anyone’s serving dishes, these are a truly unique hostess or wedding gift that will quickly become beloved heirloom.
The Body Shop Tea Tree Collection – $4 – $18
To quote one of my favourite blogs, Of Course. As in, of course I’m going to feature The Body Shop when I’m talking fair trade. These guys are practically pioneers about bringing fair trade practices to the masses, in particular through their amazing best selling Tea Tree collection. On a practical level, tea tree oil has been known to combat a wide host of skin issues. From soothing itchy bug bites to clarifying your skin tone to shrivelling up zits, it’s sort of a wonder ingredient. So naturally, it’s no wonder that the Tea Tree line has one of the biggest range of products, including a new addition this year, the Tea Tree Pore Minimizer, which reduces the size of large pores and gets your skin make-up ready with a matte finish. Beyond that the collection also extends to pure Tea Tree Oil, Skin Clearing Foaming Cleanser, Toner, and Facial Wash, and even a pint-sized Tea Tree Blemish Gel for when you’ve got a surprise zit you want to eviscerate. And if you’re wondering about the origins of the line’s signature ingredient? It all comes from the borders of Mount Kenya National Park, where it’s community fair trade sourced. Brava!
Looking for some fair trade for your face this fall? You may be the lucky winner of a $100+ prize pack from The Body Shop’s Tea Tree line! Here’s what you gotta to do enter:
1) Leave a comment by October 9th on which fair trade gift idea most floats your boat.
2) Entries are limited to one per person / per email address / per household (or more if you score bonus entries). A random draw will be conducted on or around October 10th to select the winner, who will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen in their place.
3) Entries are limited to Canadians that have reached the age of majority in their province. Quebec is not eligible to participate in this promotion.
4) Bonus Entries: I’m giving you THREE chances here people! First, Follow The Body Shop on Twitter and drop your handle in the comments. Second, Like The Body Shop on Facebook and leave a comment on their wall (you don’t have to mention this contest) to scoop up another entry – be sure to tell me you did so in the comments, and what your Facebook username is. Finally, visit The Body Shop website and tell me which of the Tea Tree products you’d be most excited to try if you won!