Tag Archive | "Fair Trade"

Adarsh Rangaswamy – Ethically Sourced Flowers

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Gerbera BouquetFlowers epitomise emotion and can have a very beneficial impact on people. They are sent to communicate their feelings to their nearest and dearest. Wouldn’t it be even better if people were able to confidently buy sustainable, ethically-sourced flowers to communicate their feelings? After all, ethical commitment is an emotion as well! However, buying sustainable, ethical flowers is a niche activity in the UK, with only a handful of florists offering produce which is truly ethically sourced.

First of all, some numbers:
The total market for cut flowers and house plants in the UK is estimated to be £2.2 Billion and is expected to exceed £3 Billion by 2011. Despite the incursion of mutiple alternatives including gifts, chocolates and wines, people are still saying it with flowers, although the UK lags behind the rest of Europe in annual per capita spend on flowers.

LilyThere is a perennial debate regarding industry standards for flowers, as consumers have historically been confronted with confusing symbols of ethical quality. The Kenyan Flower Council which accounts for much of the imports into the UK, is governed by Fair Trade, which regulates the code of conduct for more than 1,000 farms in Kenya, although only about 25 large farms supply over 75% of Kenya’s flower exports. Ever since its introduction to the flower industry in 1999, Fair Trade has done an excellent job of supporting more than 10,000 workers in developing nations, by setting ethical standards to improve working environments. However, in the intervening years the industry has grown considerably and the competitve landscape has evolved. In particular, fair trade initiatives tend to work best in highly fragmented industries such as fruits and vegetables, which are crowded with numerous small producers, but less well in more consolidated industries, such as the flower industry. This is because fair trade initiatives can benefit larger organisations disproportionately, thus effectively disadvantaging the development of smaller producers within the competitive environment.

Fair Flowers Fair Plants logoFair Flowers Fair Plants (FFP) is a European initiative which addresses historic shortcomings by creating a level playing field for all producers by setting uniform, global standards. One of the unique features of FFP is its emphasis on auditing the entire supply chain to regulate the use of pesticides, land, energy and the working environment. Furthermore, it also offers flexibility to florists to source their produce either from flower auctions or directly, through FFP compliant growers. This latter approach, favoured by ArenaFlowers.com where possible, guarantees fresher floral produce, reduced wastage and a happier customer (key!). In the longer term, FFP’s aim is to unify all existing standards to make it simple for growers, traders and consumers. We’re proud to say that we are the first UK florist to sell FFP-accredited products and have now launched an ethical category featuring all our whiter than white products.

As in all free markets, if there is demonstrable consumer demand then that will stimulate growth in supply. If no-one wants FFP-accredited flowers, then they simply won’t be grown. It is estimated that 18.1 million Fair Trade stems were sold in the UK in 2005 so there are clearly people willing to buy ethically-sourced flowers. The challenge for FFP is to get into the national consciousness when Fair Trade is already the de facto standard in most peoples’ minds. That’s why at Arena we’re investing a lot of time pushing the cause of FFP whenever we get a chance. One thing that people most love to hear is that FFP-accredited flowers typically cost no more than non FFP flowers; so being a good egg doesn’t have to mean a dent in your pocket as well!

A fantastic find in Glasgow

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The other week I was at a conference in Glasgow and took the opportunity to go and visit Entrading, a new green/eco/ethical/fairtrade/organic/generally very nice shop.  I had read about it the week before, so I had to go!

What a fabulous place, it’s not massive but packs in a lot of great products – and a cafe.  Unfortunately I didn’t have time to try the food, which was a shame as the food at my conference wasn’t very good.  I was very good, and restricted myself to buying a Seasalt top and a candle, but was very tempted by the Gossypium undies and the Lavera perfume (I never knew they did perfume).  I’m pretty sure that my boyfriend will love their organic Glas-gu t-shirt as well.

I could have bought loads more stuff: stationery, bags, presents for all my pregnant friends, a washing machine, paint, all sorts.  I’ll definitely be making lots of return visits whenever I’m in Glasgow, and hope to try some of the yummy-looking food next time.

World Fair Trade Day


World Fair Trade DayThank you to People Tree for alerting me to the fact that today is World Fair Trade Day!

An international celebration of Fair Trade internationally, World Fair Trade Day was begun by Safia Minney, founder of People Tree, and adopted by IFAT and its members in 2001.

On and around the second Saturday of May every year, IFAT member organisations based in 70 countries, along with Fair Trade shops and networks, host events including Fair Trade breakfasts, talks, music concerts, fashion shows and much more, to promote Fair Trade and campaign for justice in trade.

This year’s theme is ‘Kids need Fair Trade’, the logic being that if adults are paid a fair price for their work, their children are able to go to school and live a healthy and full life, rather than having to work.The World Fair Trade Day website gives the following suggestions for getting involved:

1.Buy Fair Trade products

Be informed when buying products. Fair Trade products help lift disadvantaged artisans and farmers out of poverty.

When buying non-fair trade products you are unknowingly contributing to the deterioration of the environment, the marginalisation of artisans and farmers and by doing so you are helping widen the gap between rich and poor. Fair Trade only works if empowered consumers buy Fair Trade products!

2.Take part in this years’ Fair Trade events

The Fair Trade concept/movement will be celebrated worldwide throughout May. Come and join us, and learn more about Fair Trade and how you can actively contribute to the Fair Trade movement. To see the list of events, click here.

3.Hold your own events

Why don’t you organise an event in your area, at your school, etc… to promote Fair Trade? Please register your events here.

4.Spread the message

Download the World Fair Trade Day logo. Use it in as many creative ways as possible: printing it on your t-shirts, making posters, leaflets, etc… and help spread the message!

5.Send your message to shops and companies!

As a consumer you are influential. Ask your favorite retail shops and stores to stock Fair Trade products. Write to manufacturers to show you care about producers’ rights and the environment. Apply pressure on them to make products in a fairer way, which protects producers and the environment.

Once manufacturers have been made aware of their customers’ expectations, their products and business ethics will change to reflect these. Make your voice heard and make a difference!

And last but not least, have fun on World Fair Trade Day!


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Is nothing sacred?

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Over a large piece of particularly decadent dark chocolate cake yesterday, a friend mentioned casually a downgrade in federal standards for chocolate. Or rather, what can be legally be called “chocolate.”

I did a little digging, and she was right: a petition currently before the FDA is asking them to allow choco-products that substitute veggie and other oils for coco butter to be labeled as “chocolate”–thereby eliminating the current distinction. Gristmill has posted more info on how to protest the change.

Also, more info in an op-ed in the LA Times.

Because maybe what we SHOULD be asking of our chocolatiers (a.k.a. “Big Chocolate”?) is to make chocolate that is sustainably produced and slavery-free, rather than more waxy and less tasty.

(Small chocolates say: “Save us from choco-imitators!”)

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Smell to get well

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Smell to get wellI recently discovered the benefits of aromatherapy. It’s not as though I’d previously dismissed it, it just hadn’t really occurred to me to use it for anything other than helping to relax. After visiting the doctor for a couple of years with the same ailment and just being given stronger and stronger antibiotics I decided it was time to go elsewhere.

I have to say I was amazed at the results. Who would have thought that a little bottle of smelly stuff could make all the difference? Pretty soon I was evangelizing the wonders of eucalyptus and how it can cure all ills, well sinusitis anyway.

After listening to me going on and on, one of my good friends bought me two excellent aromatherapy books for Christmas by Valerie Ann Worwood; ‘The Fragrant Mind’ and ‘The Fragrant Pharmacy’. When I read Valerie’s explanation of how these highly concentrated oils are extracted from a particular plant or tree I immediately wondered what the implications are. For example, it takes 8 million hand-picked Jasmine blossoms (which must be picked on the first day they open) to produce one kilo of oil and a sandalwood tree must be 30 years old before it is cut.

So, what goes into growing such vast amounts of these various plants and who is employed to pick and distil them? Is this being done in a green and fair way?

I have seen & bought organic eucalyptus oil in the shops but assuming this is an abundant source in Australia I hadn’t really thought beyond being satisfied with the organic mark.

I have done a little research on the internet and found some sites which sell organic and fair trade oils. Here are a few of them:
La Maison Afrique -In fact this site provides a great insight into how their essential oils are produced and how the farmers are involved.
Faith – Holistics Made Easy
Materia Aromatica

What I would really love though is for someone who knows about aromatherapy to tell us more about how essential oils can be produced whilst still respecting people and the environment. I love my little bottle of eucalyptus but I’d hate to think that whilst it’s making me better, for someone else its making things worse.

Vic and BobAromatherapists, essential oil enthusiasts or anyone who wants to have a say get in touch and tell us what you think.

By the way, any Vic Reeves fans who noticed the “Smell to get well” reference, extra brownie points for you!

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No longer a silent night

Recycle Now has teamed up with the resourceful members of the Really Rubbish Orchestra and Hear Me Now to play some well-known Christmas carols and raise awareness of the opportunities and importance to recycle small electronic and electrical goods.

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