Fair Trade: What You Need To Know

Last Update: September 11, 2023

What’s not to like about the phrase “fair trade,” right? Lots of you probably look for it when you reach for your morning coffee (or afternoon chocolate bar) because you want to support farmers in far-flung places.

But it turns out that seal of approval delivers much more than decent wages—it’s also a sign that what you’re buying is good for the planet.

At the most basic level, fair trade means a product was sustainably produced and environmentally friendly. All of the crops have to be grown in a way that conserves water, protects soil from erosion, and limits pesticides and herbicides. And (bonus!) they can’t contain GMOs. But pay attention! That doesn’t necessarily mean all fair trade products are organic. Fair Trade USA says they ‘promote’ organic methods, but only half of the certified imports last year were organic, so if that’s important to you, be sure to check the packaging.

So the earth definitely benefits from fair trade methods, but it’s people who see the most dramatic return. In regions where chocolate and coffee are produced, labor conditions are notoriously grim. The global appetite to for fair trade means local farmers are paid fair wages and can’t be subject to abusive working conditions. Plus, all fair-trade products have a “floor price.” No matter how low prices drop, fair-trade products have to be sold at a level that still supports farmers. This helps workers keep some of the profits for themselves—instead of falling prey to the greed of a massive corporation.

Cool, huh? Who knew that little label meant so much. If you’re fired up about supporting farmers—and the planet— check out a few of our favorite fair-trade certified foods, beauty products, and home goods at Thrive Market.

1. Alter Eco Dark Velvet Chocolate Bar
2. Yogi Yerba Mate
3. Thrive Market Organic Virgin Coconut Oil
4. Wholesome Organic Agave Nectar
5. Equal Exchange Organic Coffee
6. Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Castile Soap
7. Alaffia Unscented African Black Soap
8. Yogi Tea Pure Green Tea
9. Everyday Shea Fair Trade Shea Butter Body Lotion
10. Nature’s All Foods Freeze Dried Dark Chocolate Bananas
11. Salazon Organic Dark Chocolate Bar with Sea Salt

Photo credit: Paul Delmont

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