The Fair Trade Challenge


In the past six months, we have been doing a lot of rethinking about the way that we live, what we are focused on and where we want to put our time and resources. Part of this rethinking process has revolved around what we consume and how it affects others. The idea of treating people as unique individuals with intrinsic value, instead of a resource towards a selfish end has been captivating to us.

There remains the problem, however, of how to put these thoughts into action in a consumerist society that seems to be bent on ever increased productivity at an ever decreasing cost. It is easy to treat the cashier at the local Target with a bit more respect by looking them in the eye and genuinely thanking them for their help. But what about those items that the cashier is ringing up? Someone had to make them. How do I ensure that the great sale that I just got wasn’t built on backs of mistreated workers hundreds or thousands of miles away?

Fair trade seems to be at least a small part of the solution to this conundrum. With fair trade certified items I am at least getting some assurances that a certain standard of treatment is upheld for the workers who make the items I buy. The challenge is, that these items are traditionally thought of as being: more expensive, less convenient, with less selection and sometimes, less quality.

The Challenge

I want to challenge this notion and see if it’s true. So, here’s the challenge.

For The Next Year:

  • We will only buy fair trade or responsibly sourced clothes.
  • We will continue to wear our current clothes until they wear out.
  • If an item that we need is just too exorbitantly priced or simply not available in fair trade channels we will buy it from companies that have written labor standards and public disclosure of inspections etc.
  • We get to change the rules if we need to or based on research.

My hope is that this journey will give us greater insight into how a normal American couple can modify their buying habits in order to treat people everywhere with greater dignity and respect. We’ll be documenting our journey here so please subscribe to our email updates, follow us on the social network of choice, and on our blog.

We’d love for this to be a collective journey. So if you find sources for ethically sourced items, have experiences to share or comments to make, please use the comments area of this blog to get in touch with us and let us know! If

Putting the Simple in OatSoSimple

My husband and I are in a season of life that we refer to as OPERATION: SIMPLIFY!

We started simplifying our life primarily when our son, Micah, was born two years ago. It started out of necessity, because we became a one income family so I could stay home. Over time, however, it has turned into a lifestyle that we have grown to love.

“What we eat and how much stuff we own are the two ways that we have focused on simplifying our lives.”

As Micah started to eat solid foods, we found ourselves at a crossroads. We did not want to even introduce many unhealthy foods into Micah’s diet. If we wanted Micah to eat a healthy diet, we had to change ours. So, shortly after Micah’s first birthday my husband and I gave up all desserts and soda. We thought if he grew up without nearly as much refined sugar from the beginning, it would be easier for him to maintain a healthy lifestyle later on, and hopefully he just wouldn’t like it.

Although giving up sugar was super hard at first, and still is occasionally, it has been one of the best decisions we have ever made. We still eat refined sugar, mainly in forms of condiments, breads, granola bars, and our daily allotted amount of 85% dark chocolate, but we are much more conscious of how much we consume. I am happy to report that Micah is two years old and doesn’t know what a “cookie” is. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t have “perfect diets” by any means, but we are trying to set Micah up for success in making his own choices later on in life.

The next part of our journey, simplifying how much stuff we own, came a little bit later. I think it all started with a fundamental shift in the way that Matt was viewing his work. Though we both intellectually knew that things were not the most important part of life, that knowledge didn’t seem to have much application in our day to day life. We were still very focused on how much money Matt was making at work and what things that would allow us to do and buy. A couple of books, Jesus Wants to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile and Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived really allowed us to start re-framing the way that we think and act as followers of Jesus. Matt’s goals in work began to shift to making a difference in people’s lives and bringing more of God’s love into action in the world. At the same time we began to reflect on how this might change our lives at home. Right as these thoughts were forming and we were discussing what to do next, an unhappy event gave us the push that we needed to start making actual changes. Our basement flooded.

In the midst of the cleanup project, we realized that our basement was where we kept a massive amount of things we simply didn’t need or use. Since we had to move / dry out just about everything, we decided to start purging. While we wanted to get rid of things, we wanted to also do it in a responsible way. So, we had a rummage sale, listed items on craigslist, gave away things we no longer used, and donated things to a local food-bank that runs a resale shop.

We aren’t finished yet. For us, the journey is just beginning. Stay tuned for what’s coming next!

Fair Trade Dress

I came across this dress in Madison this weekend while visiting the local farmers market. It’s a cute, flattering style that is produced by a designer called Mata Traders. They believe that buying fair trade shouldn’t mean you have to sacrifice fashion. Made in India and Nepal, all the fabric used is fair trade cotton from local farmers and is hand printed with eco-friendly vegetable dyes. Being a mother now myself, it breaks my heart to think about all the children in unsafe, unsanitary and unfair working conditions trying to earn money for their family. It feels great to pay a little extra and to be confident that the producers of the clothing were paid a fair and liveable wage. Check out their site for more adorable styles!