Do you ever feel like you're trying to make better choices about what you buy, but it's just so hard when options are limited? Have you ever gone grocery shopping, determined to buy some Fair Trade coffee, only to learn there was none to be had? If so, then you're not alone. In the U.S., many grocery stores still carry few or no Fair Trade items. But you can change that by asking your local supermarket to become a Fair Trade zone. The Fair Trade Your Supermarket Campaign is all about helping shoppers support Fair Trade in their communities. They have an awesome list of direct actions you can take, like writing a letter to the headquarters of your local store or Tweeting about Fair Trade availability in your area. But the coolest tool they have are their shelf cards, which are designed to be left at the grocery store. One card has a general message about supporting Fair Trade, to encourage the store to keep stocking Fair Trade items and other customers to buy them. The other says "A Fair Trade product belongs here," for shelves that should have Fair Trade products but don't.
One of the reasons I love these cards is that they give me (and other consumers) something to do other than just get frustrated that the third store I went to didn't have Fair Trade cocoa for the brownies I wanted to make. Instead of throwing a hissy fit, I can just leave a card, and tell the store they need to stock Fair Trade to please their customers. Similarly, when I'm pleasantly surprised (the corner store stocks Divine chocolate?!), I have an easy way of saying thanks. If you're curious what comes in Fair Trade versions these days, check out the list here.
Fair Trade is all about creating a system of exchange that honors producers, communities, consumers, and the environment. Fair trade food means that farmers and producers get a fair price for their work, and that the company upholds strict environmental and labor rights standards. Fair Trade is not a guarantee of slavery-free, but it's an excellent tool to help reduce slavery in the production of our food. And some of the most common Fair Trade products — like coffee, sugar, and cocoa — are also some of the industries most rife with human trafficking and exploitation.
So the next time you got shopping, take along some shelf cards and the inspiration to ask the store manager to stock more Fair Trade products. You just might be what turns a run-of-the-mill grocery store into a weapon against modern-day slavery.