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Monday, March 29, 2010

I Scream, You Scream...

We all Scream

Ben and Jerry's Ice cream is going 100% Fair Trade!!

Yes, by 2013 (2011 in Europe) every/any ingredient that is fair will be used to create every flavor, from the chocolate to the nuts to the fruit. They started this process back in '05 and their chocolate, vanilla and coffee flavors are Fair Trade certified. All of the chunks, swirls, the phish food and the chunky monkeys. All of it going fair. Business researchers say this move will force other companies to jump on board with Fair Trade because it has proved to be profitable for B and Js. Isn't this interesting? One company decides they don't want to exploit people and other companies are then forced to do the same..hmm, I think I like where this is going..

Here's an excerpt from Inc. com about Ben and Jerry!

"The effort will involve converting to Fair Trade ingredients for 121 different chunks and swirls and 11 ingredients including cocoa, banana, vanilla, fruits and nuts. The switch will happen in Europe by 2011, and in the U.S. by 2013. (The company also avoids milk from cows who have been injected with the growth hormone rBGH, and will convert to certified humane cage-free farm eggs by the end of 2010.) Managers in the U.S. were particularly resistant to going fully Fair Trade because the certification, which also comes with a promise for the producers of ingredients to get a fairer share of the profits, isn't as widely-recognized (and rewarded) as it is in the rest of the world. Less than a third of U.S. shoppers understand the term, according to TransFair USA , the nonprofit group that certifies ingredients as Fair Trade. That's compared to 50 percent of consumers worldwide, according to the group's recent poll.
The company -- an Inc. 500 alumnus -- first d ipped into Fair Trade in 2005. Observers predict the pioneering ice-cream brand's move will scoop more consumers into the still-fuzzy Fair Trade fold. Some experts say the ice-cream maker's move will force other brands to follow.

"It's the first 100 percent commitment from such a mainstream brand," said TransFair USA spokeswoman Stacy Geagan Wagner. (Green & Black, Cadbury's niche organic chocolate brand, promised a complete conversion to Fair Trade last month.) "I see it as the rise of the social consumer. We have the ability to choose product A, which tastes great, or Product B, which also tastes great, but doesn't exploit anybody."

Greenfield said in a statement: “Fair Trade is about making sure people get their fair share of the pie. The whole concept of Fair Trade goes to the heart of our values and sense of right and wrong. Nobody wants to buy something that was made by exploiting somebody else.”

Another interesting point is that Ben and Jerry's is no longer a small, private company. In fact Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield sold the company to Unilever , one of the world's leading food companies. They own many, many labels including Hellmans, Wishbone, Lipton, Country Crock, Slim Fast and Knorr. Not to mention their personal care labels: Dove, Axe, Vaseline and Lux and many more. Unilever seems to have overall sustainable and eco-friendly goals: "We have set targets to source all of our palm oil and all of our tea from certified sustainable sources by 2015." They use 12% of the worlds source of tea and it doesn't say anywhere on the site that Lipton is going fair trade, but they do seem to have sustainable goals. They say:
"We work with smallholder farmers to implement sustainable agricultural methods and improve both their crop yields and business profits." They claim to source raw products from thousands of small farmers. They have also established training programs for teaching tea farmers about more sustainable practices. It doesn't mention labor rights for workers though. Again is this the disconnect between fair and green? Read here for more info about Unilever's practices.

I'm proud of Unilever for taking this step. I think it's a big deal for a company this big to leap into Fair Trade. It must be profitable for them somehow. One of my missions is to meet the folks who pushed them go 100% fair.

I can't tell you how deliciously awesome this is too. I was dreading the thought of my homemade berry cobbler without its sidekick the vanilla ice cream this summer.

On that note, I think I better get to the freezer to finish off the rest of the Chunky Monkey before Ted does...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Boozing Fairly

Maybe boozing is the wrong word. I don't think of myself of a boozer necessarily, but in the last few years Ted and I have certainly found ourselves google mapping dozens of wineries on our road trips and our world travels. It's just fun. I love the smell of a Merlot that has aged in an old oak barrel and there is nothing like a glass of chilled pinot grigio paired with fresh mahi mahi straight off the grill; especially while celebrating the joy of being a Floridian on the back pool deck as the sun goes down. Ted and I have found ourselves to be a 'red' couple, although our first kiss was over a bottle (or two) of chardonnay. We spent much time our first year of marriage hanging at our favorite wine bar, The Cork and Keg, and have drug even the dryest of friends into spontaneous tastings and wine fairs.

This particular experience happened just this past weekend as my dearest Sanaa (who is also searching and digging to live as fairly as she can and who leaves the great comments) and her way cool husband Andrew traveled up for their first visit to our room, I mean apartment. It was the suniest it has been since we've moved here to Boston, the perfect weekend for the two of them to come. We walked the famous Freedom Trail and wandered into Bottles, a wine shop close to Little Italy, where we first tasted some great beers, but then.............. sitting on the bottom shelf:

FAIR TRADE BEER! (WE FREAKED OUT!) In fact, this beer is the first ever to be certified as Fair Trade. The company Peak Organic Brewing Company, operates out of Portland Maine and has created a beautiful combination of ale and coffee, deemed the 'espresso amber ale.' The Bolvian grown beans turned espresso are Fair Trade ceritified. And this beer is not just fair, but rich and tasty, pairing beautifully with chocolate cake as the website reccomends. http://

Ted and I have also recently found out about Fairhills. South African Fair Trade wine. Way cool. Some Whole Foods carry them, others don't, but simply tell the manager you would like to buy this product and he can put a request in for you. (that's a tidbit of info on any fair product you'd like to see you in your grocery store. More often than not, Whole Foods will work with you.) We have not tasted Fairhills yet, but it's on the list.
Also, I've heard about Etica winery whose slogan is "Drink Like You Give A Damn." Pretty damn clever. From their site:
"Etica works with wine producers from South Africa, Chile and Argentina—the only Fair Trade certified wine producing countries in the world. As an importer, Etica pays a premium on the grapes, which in turn is used by producers to develop community initiatives—from education and housing, to healthcare and professional development."

Again, we've yet to taste these fair wines, but are making the effort to get them ordered! Ted and I plan to host a tasting of these wines for all of you winos out there. And for all of you who drink b/c it's the classy thing to do. Or for those of you who sip on the grapes only on special occasions, like when you make it home from another day of work, or when you've decided to take exercising to the next level and really use those muscles as you uncork 5 or 6 bottles. Or for all of you who perhaps you don't drink at all, but find yourself being drug into wineries with those you love (thanks Andrew. thanks Chris. thanks Larry.) You are all invited.

And in the spirit of the drink, I propose a closing toast of sorts: To a fabulous weekend with my Sanaa (and now my Andrew too.) It was so very special to me. Thank you for putting up with my craziness for over 13 years, for loving me just as I am today and for letting me need you. I love standing up for fairness and justness with you Sanaa. I love doing this together. And may we never forget the dog in the vintage boutique, Wowsas, cause "I won't judge you."
Here's to 13 more years of life together Sanaa, you and me and our brainy husbands. I love you Sister.

And here's to Boozing. And boozing fairly.

I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Green does not mean Fair

Emily may just be my saving grace.

We met tonight for coffee at Clear Conscience Cafe in Central Square on Mass Ave. (for all you Bostonians, check it out, they serve only fair trade coffees and teas)
Originally we met at a talk by Polaris Project at the Kennedy School at Harvard. This was like 6 months ago. (And this is why I still have no friends in this busy city because it typically takes an average of 3 months to hang out with people. I'm irritatedly becoming accustomed.) Nonetheless, Emily and I connected quickly because she is also a former IJMer. (International Justice Mission You need them in your life.)

We shared about our lives, our nerdy husbands who solve calculus problems for fun and at one point she mentioned she liked the blog... I told her I had just come back from a 3 week trip to Florida (sorry for my absence blog) and that a frustration was building in me because of well, a rug. During a visit with my dear friends, Pam and I took the afternoon to window shop and soak up the sun. In a downtown shop of Winter Park, Orlando, there was this white rug made from bamboo that would be perfect in my bathroom. This was one of those eco-friendly stores where they sell handbags made of recycled plastic bags and the best yet, paper made from elephant poo. So Pam and I meander through this store, I find the clearance rack and this awesome white rug that simply belongs in my lime green apartment. I read the tags. Good news, its 100% bamboo. I care about the environment and bamboo is the most sustainable resource out there, right? Bad news: Made In China. I ask for the manager. He gives me some fluff about how they are careful when they buy products, but it seems he has no idea what I'm saying when I mention the words "fair trade" and his reaction to the word "slavery" implied he was clueless about the strong bond between rugs and child labour. Pam and I even googled the company on her phone to which brought no further information. I left that green store rugless and sad.

Green my friends does not imply Fair. Let us not assume this. There are some awesome eco-friendly websites like Pristine Planet where you can buy organic wedding gowns and Green Home that provides a variety of great stuff for the house. BUT! BUT!!!! Many many times these green sites give little or no info on the people who made the products.
How ridiculous that I need to choose between helping the environment and supporting just labor standards? Why the hell can't the eco folks and fair trade folks join up?!

Emily agrees. There needs to be a label, an association similar to the Fair Trade one that certifies for clothing, for furniture, for the stuff in life. This way the Gap can say you know what, just like we started making organic t-shirts and baby clothes because it was a fad, we are going to make one line of Fair Trade jeans. All of us advocates buy 2 pairs of those jeans, Gap finds these pants are surviving the market and even bringing in profit and they decide to do a slave free sweater for next season. And then Gap gets an even more ingenious idea (which they will read from this blog I'm sure) to sell the first ever organic/fair trade khaki pants someone can buy from a mall.

All of a sudden, you've got entire slave-free or rather FAIR LABOR, Organic run way shows. Heidi Klum is turning down photo shoots unless its Fair Labor lingerie, Victoria. Yeah yeah! Hook me up on that homies! This is what needs to happen. And we aren't sacrificing green for fair.

So basically I'm tired of choosing. I'll let you know of any sites I find that do both. (My dearest Sanaa mentioned which rates companies based on green and fair. They are a great resource!) Other than that, I'm still searching. It seems I find food products who do both, but very little when it comes to household goods, clothing, etc.

Maybe Emily will start a Fair Labor certification process for big companies. Maybe we'll do it together. But for now, let's not wait until Fair is a fad to start buying that way.