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

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!