May 10, 2009

How to add fair trade to your ecovacation

Easy ways to promote the cultural integrity of local communities during your travel

When thinking of eco vacations, unspoiled natural environments and green hotels are what probably first comes to mind. However, eco holidays also entail a certain respect and concern for the local communities we are visiting. By directly supporting local communities as much as possible during our travels, we are contributing to the preservation and improvement of the area, and thus helping to create benefits for the locals as well as future travelers. But how can we support local communities during our travels? One simple, transparent way is by adding fair trade to our eco vacation. 
Fair trade is an international certification program that aims to alleviate world poverty by empowering small producers and eliminating the middleman, supporting environmental sustainability in the process. Farmers and laborers in developing countries are more often than not paid extremely low wages that cannot cover their daily expenses. Through fair trade practices, however, wages paid must allow workers to at least cover the cost of sustainable production. By earning appropriate wages, producers may spend more, which helps the community as a whole. Workers also receive an added premium to promote the community’s economic growth. Working conditions are also improved through specific health and safety requirements that must be met. 
Although fair trade leads to fair wages and better working conditions, it provides an added bonus- environmental protection and sustainability. Most fair trade products are organic, and those which are not usually follow specific production practices that are environmentally sustainable. For example, although the farm itself may not be certified as organic, chances are that the farmer will still be practicing organic farming techniques such as minimizing pesticides and herbicides. This leads to more natural crops and a reduction of the negative environmental impact resulting from human activity. And as consumers, we enjoy healthier, more delicious products. 
Considering the obvious benefits of fair trade, then, we should try to participate in the process during our vacation. We can do this by thinking about where our money goes before buying anything. We must ask ourselves, was this piece of jewelry/craft/souvenir made by local artisans? Was this fruit/vegetable grown by local farmers? Buying from local artisans and producers, eating at local restaurants that buy from local producers, and staying at hotels that both employ locals and buy from locals are some simple ways of contributing to the fair trade ideal. Both at home and away, we can maintain the principles of fair trade by taking a look at what we buy. The easiest way to buy fair trade items is to look for the Fair Trade certified label. And we must remember- not only by participating in environmental projects or reducing our energy consumption are we helping the world become a better place. - Eco Articles - How to add fair trade to your ecovacation