Americans love getting what's fair and are quick to point out when they're given the short end of the stick. A cable bill hike from increased taxes: not fair. That barista giving free coffee to the hot girl in front of you: so not fair. You cutting off that guy in the 1994 Plymouth to make the light: fair, because his car is totally lame.
Yep, Americans are really good at pointing out what is and isn't fair. But are we good at making sure others get a fair shake? Absolutely! As long as it's convenient, and, let's be honest, doesn't require a lot of extra work on our part. We still want the pat on the back though. And it should impress that cute fair trade advocate.
Now, before you send me strongly worded letters about all the good work Americans have done in the fight against slavery and in support of fair trade, let me lay this on you: In a recent news article about Starbucks’ plan for global domination, I mean, expansion, they wrote " ... all espresso [in Europe] is now Fair Trade, a certification that carries a lot of weight in Europe."
This made me wonder why Europe is getting all the fair trade espresso while the three Starbucks within a mile from my apartment only carry a few fair trade coffees, which is totally not fair. Turns out Starbucks in Europe, notably Ireland and the U.K., has been serving fair trade espresso exclusively since 2008, but the U.S. won't follow suit until 2015. That’s a great goal for Starbucks; however, why isn't America miffed that Europe is getting the fair trade brew first? Shouldn't fair trade certification carry more weight with us? Why are we super competitive in sports and industrial achievements but don't mind Europe taking the international "fair trade lives here" title?
My theory is that Americans don't want to pay the higher cost for fair trade products on a regular basis. Covering the cost of fair wages for an entire Guatemalan family at four coffees a day is a pricey conscience soother, right? It isn't fair to you, is it? Because you already paid that rate hike for cable.
The quiet dismissal of fair trade certified products as too expensive can be legitimate to a degree. Not everyone can truly afford to pay the extra dollar or two on a majority of purchases. But I guarantee you that almost everybody can afford to do so for at least one regularly purchased product. And not for the photo op or because it's a great conversation starter. Certainly not because it's today’s fad. Convenience should never outweigh your fellow man’s freedom. Don’t be a fair weather friend. Support fair trade in at least one regularly purchased product because it really is fair.
Not sure how to find fairly traded goods? Start with TransFair USA's list of certified retailers and leave some comments below about what you're purchasing: http://www.transfairusa.org/content/WhereToBuy/