Sunday, May 13, 2012

Fairtrade Fortnight!

I feel a bit of guilt when I buy things. Part of it is because I already have a lot of things (I currently have about twenty skirts... but they are all thrifted! And I still lack many colours and styles! And some fit differently depending on how much weight I'm packing!), and a bigger part is because Vincent almost never buys things. But I feel guiltiest when I have bought something on a whim, that I don't really need, and that was made in a country with no/terrible labour laws.

Buying secondhand makes me feel less guilty, and buying secondhand from a charity shop makes me feel less guilty still. (And when I think about it, maybe the guilt is part of the pleasure; as I was explaining to my niece, our family is, by nature, perverse.) But sometimes you can't buy secondhand, and you can't afford to commission a local artisan to make you a rug, or a doll. And that is where Fairtrade comes in.

Fairtrade New Zealand make shopping really easy. They research products and certify them so we know at a glance if things have been produced ethically, and to raise awareness of Fairtrade, from May 5-20, they present Fairtrade Fortnight. The fortnight includes events around the place, including Trade Aid, which is one of my favourite shops in the city. (Just this week I bought presents for my Port mother and sister, a bangle for myself, and lovely of lovelies, laybyed a beautiful leather overnight bag for my family (yes, me, but I want to eventually use it as a nappy bag, and I can see Vincent using it too!). I actually can't go in there without buying something, so I try to only go in there when I need a present.) Their website is a good place to check whether or not so-called fairtrade products are legit or not, which was why I went there in the first place. 

It's been a while since Vincent and I switched to All Good Bananas, which are Fairtrade certified, but aren't widely available within the central city. To begin with, they were only available from New World Victoria Park which is a bit of a hike for us, so I emailled our local Countdown to ask them to start stocking them. I didn't hear anything from them, but they began selling Dole Ethical Choice bananas, as do their new inner-city branch, and the New World Metro that opened a few months ago (I emailled them tonight about stocking All Good, so watch this space). Vincent and I were dubious (at best) about Dole's Ethical Choice; we've both read about how they have treated their banana farmers in the past, and weren't impressed by their sudden commitment to fairtrade. Furthermore, their banana prices are still so low we wondered how they could make a profit and still pay their farmers fairly. Checking the Fairtrade website, I discovered they are not fairtrade certified, and  reading Dole's own website, it seems that what they do is a bit like the government offering tax-cuts after raising GST, or, one of my pet hates, rich businesspeople, who have made their money from exploiting other people, donating a tiny fraction of that money to a charity and being called philanthropists (they are not!!!). I'm not even close to convinced - in fact, they can kiss my arse. But I do miss bananas; they're my favourite fruit. (In case you're in the city too, you can buy All Good from Fix on Fort Street for $1.20 a piece, a price at which I balk in spite of the fact that in my other hand is probably a $4 V8 juice and a $3 pack of M&Ms.)

Anyway I'm barely making sense now, so I'll go. But don't forget to celebrate Fairtrade fortnight - not only by buying fairtrade, but by thinking about what we buy already; shoes, clothes, hangers, and everything else we're used to buying cheap because they're made unethically. We seem to think that it's our right to buy cheaply, but it's not. And it's bloody hard buying everything ethically, so let's pick our battles and buy as much as we can that's ethically produced, so we can lessen the evils of our phones and laptops and socks. Alright, sermon over. Nietzsche bless us, every one.

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