On the Fair Trade Hunt

September 9, 2010

I made it to Boston yesterday and managed to stay up ‘til about 8:30pm before the effects of 24 hours of travel caught up with me.  And then I woke up at 3:30 am (just in time for lunch in Mumbai).  Fortunately my hosts had some fair trade Mexican coffee in the cupboard to nurse my jetlag with and that got me thinking that I’d go on a fair trade hunt to see what Boston’s shops had on offer these days.

Boston has been on the fair trade map for years so it’s not so surprising how many fair trade products I saw on my 3km walk.  One of the US pioneers in fair trade is the company Equal Exchange.  These guys started their work selling fair trade coffee in the Boston area in 1986.  25 years later, the local grocery store I stopped into sells Equal Exchange fair trade coffee, Darjeeling tea, chocolate, and bananas (not to mention a host of other fair trade products from other brands).  The next stop: Starbucks.  This cafe behemoth buys more fair trade coffee than any other company in the world, and on the shelves was ‘Cafe Estima’, the coffee chain giant’s fair trade blend.

Literally across the street was Ten Thousand Villages, another fair trade trailblazer.  Based in Pennsylvania, Ten Thousand Villages started selling fair trade handicrafts in the US over 60 years ago.  Today, the company has over 75 stores around the US and sells fair trade handicrafts from Asia, Latin America, and Africa.  And the last stop, a Boston institution – Dunkin Donuts.  Based just outside the city, it seems like there’s a Dunkin Donuts shop on nearly every corner (and apparently 6,395 stores around the country).  And guess what.  All the espresso coffee drinks are made from fair trade beans.

It’s really exciting to see so much fair trade on shelves and so many Bostonians enjoying fair trade products.  But it didn’t happen overnight.  Lots of people worked hard to spread the word and build a movement of consumers who vote for fair trade with their shopping dollars.  And the hard work has paid off.  In August Boston became designated as a fair trade town.  More on that in the next few days…

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