Fair Trade links the environment, human rights and a fair wage
Reno, NV 89509
A Komodo dragon carved of wood perches in the window of Artisans Fairtrade. It was made on the island of Komodo by people whose means of living was once fishing. They used dynamite to get to the fish among coral reefs—a practice that would eventually bring both the coral reefs and their livelihood to an end. The Nature Conservancy stepped in, purchasing the land and helping to pay for its policing. They brought in Bali carvers to teach some of the Komodo people a different craft and occupation.
“We want to support them, because if we don’t, they have nothing,” says Julie Douglass, owner of Artisans Fairtrade. “They can’t go back to what they were doing.”
A similar story could be told of every item in the store, which opened in August. Each product is certified Fair Trade, which links environmental, economic and social justice issues and usually refers to goods made in developing countries. Fair Trade ensures that a product was made in safe, healthy work conditions, that its workers were fairly compensated, and that its production didn’t harm the environment. Fair Trade goods provide economic opportunities for groups of people whose traditional means of living exploited workers and the environment or are no longer possible. Often, a portion of the proceeds go to a program within the community from where it came, such as a school, a nature reserve or a project for clean water.
Examples include the funky, colorful purses at Artisans Fairtrade made from recycled rice bags by Cambodian women who were formerly forced into prostitution as children, or the intricately crafted Zulu baskets from South Africa made from recycled telephone wire.
Drawing from more than 60 suppliers, Douglass has carefully chosen her selection—all stylish, quality items from such places as Africa, Central and South America and Asia. There are colorful tapestries, Christmas ornaments of all kinds, ceramics, children’s games, jewelry, bird houses, pillows, alpaca scarves and more. Because there are fewer middlemen involved in Fair Trade, the goods aren’t much pricier than conventional ones. Douglass’ store isn’t particularly cheap or expensive; there are products for the $10 budget and $1,000 budget alike.
Also in the works is Fairly Grounded, a café Douglass is opening adjacent to the store in early 2008. The cafe will carry Fair Trade coffee, teas and, Douglass hopes, produce and baked goods from local farmers.
Both Julie and her husband, William Douglass, are trained anthropologists, though Julie no longer works in the field. World travelers, the couple has long been interested in environmental and social justice issues.
“[Fair trade] is more than just a wage,” says Julie. “It’s a way of lifting up people.”