Fair Trade: Is it worth it?

In January, last time I calculated my slavery footprint, thirty-five slaves worked for me. Not because I chose to employ them, but because my daily habits reinforce the slavery cycle.


I've been trying to cut back, and truthfully I have. I reach for fair trade chocolate before a Hershey bar, but I had a brownie last week and I don't know where that chocolate came from. I buy most of my clothes from thrift stores, but when my black flats wore out, I picked up a new pair at walmart—a pair that was probably made by slaves. And as a college student without a car, it's so much easier to do my shopping on Amazon than it is to try to find and buy things that are ethically sourced.

Shopping Fair Trade isn’t easy. It’s just not.

It's more expensive and it takes more time. Most Fair-Trade certified products cost consumers more because slave labor wasn’t used to make them. And if we’re going to be serious about ethical consumption, we have to take the time to research which companies to buy from and which to avoid. If we’re talking thrift stores for clothing, the hunt there can also be incredibly time consuming.

So is it worth it?

How much time and money do I put towards this?

Is it possible to put a price tag on human dignity?

Here’s the thing. I don’t think it’s possible for us to completely cut slavery out of our consumption. It’s everywhere around us and so, unless we’re going to live in a cave, hunt for food, and weave our own fabric, we have to wrestle with this.

It’s uncomfortable, though, because I don’t know the answer. I don’t know what I should do. I’m doing what I can, but in the face of slavery, it’s hard to feel like small changes to my shopping habits can really make a difference. I’d love to hear from you on this. What are you doing to cut slavery out of your day-to-day life? Do you think it’s worth it?

Find out how many slaves work for you by calculating your Slavery Footprint.

Further reading: Sweatshops Are Okay If the Clothing is Cute…Right?

Photo: tiny_packages, CC