14 Ways Fair Trade Enterprises are Cultivating Environmental Stewardship

Posted: Sat. May 01, 2021

Fair Trade seeks to offer current generations the ability to meet their needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Members actively consider the implications of their decisions on the environment and promote the responsible stewardship of resources. Members reduce, reuse, reclaim, and recycle materials wherever possible. They encourage environmentally sustainable practices throughout the entire trading chain.” – Fair Trade Federation Principle 8

Learn how fourteen FTF members are uniquely realizing this principle below!

Coop Coffees has launched a pilot project – together with allied organizations Root Capital, Cool Farm Alliance, and The Chain Collaborative – to quantify the potential for carbon sequestration in participating farmers’ fields with six partners in Guatemala, Honduras, and Peru. 

The current project introduces the Cool Farm Too, a farmer-facing carbon footprint calculator, to 250 farmers to illustrate the best suite of “carbon-smart” farming practices currently being implemented in different coffee regions. This is an important step forward, demonstrating effective and easily replicable climate solutions on the farm. But achieving validated, carbon-capture measurements also allows Cooperative Coffees to move forward with their ultimate goal of compensating farmers in the form of “environmental service payments” or “carbon premiums,” based upon their respective carbon-scores.

From nurturing the smallest microorganisms in their soil to a vast array of flora and fauna in managed, multi-strata coffee production systems, these farmers are accelerating carbon capture from the atmosphere where there’s a dangerous excess and storing it in their fields. This slows the negative impacts of climate change, while improving soil health, and the ecological balance and productivity of their land. Cooperative Coffees is delighted to be a partner with them in this work!

Since their beginning, Blossom Inspirations has cultivated environmental stewardship, looking to impact the planet less, using methods such as the circular economy and recycling. Recently, they have created a beautiful face/nose protective mask with colorful scenes from Peru in the Arpillera technique, produced together with their partner Alcira. 

Each mask creates a small circular economy and exemplifies their 7R’s of sustainability: Reusing donated clothes, Recycling and Reducing waste from factories, Repurposing and Rethinking the way to thrive during this pandemic, and Reconnecting and Reinvesting in her own community by donating unused materials and clothes to those in need.

Blossom Inspirations has had great feedback from customers, who say when they are done using the mask, they plan to frame it as a piece of artwork and a reminder of how we have changed as a society in this new normal. Alcira has inspired them to continue to better our planet, even in times of great challenge.

Sustainability is a continuous endeavor at GOEX Apparel. Each garment is sustainably made of USA fabric and sewn with extreme attention to detail. In 2020, they introduced buttons, labels, drawcords, twill tape, and packaging made from recycled plastic. 

GOEX also introduced a line of garments created from remnant fabric diverting waste from landfills – their ladies rib tee, rib tank, and rib cardigan are all made from scrap fabric!  GOEX will also continue to expand their assortment of garments made of eco-triblend fabric diverting more plastic from landfills. In 2021, they added zippers to the assortment of components using recycled plastics.

They are also reusing boxes that originate in Haiti. Look for a sticker indicating your box is on its second journey!

Better Way Designs incorporates as many impactful elements as they can into their product designs. Using materials that are locally sourced and environmentally sustainable, along with as many repurposed materials as possible, they have found beautiful ways to connect the cultures of the artisans to the American market where their products are sold. Creating products that leave few harmful effects on the environment, they go a step further by cutting back on waste, avoiding the use of chemical dyes, and encouraging the use of local artistry techniques. 

Their beautiful sari blankets showcase this concept of living in the mindset of environmental stewardship. Each blanket is created from repurposed saris; just like wearing thrifted clothes in the US cuts down on fast fashion that would end up in landfills, they use discarded clothes worn by the artisans in India that are hand stitched in the traditional Kantha style into something new and beautiful. Creativity can empower environmental sustainability!

Y’abal is profoundly dedicated to weaving a better future with women Mayan artisans while practicing sustainable production. In Mayan spirituality, the connection to mother earth is paramount, and protecting the relationship with mother nature is of supreme importance. Y’abal shares this vision and is committed to nurturing the environment in various ways. 

Their textiles are woven by hand without any interference of machinery and the material used is natural cotton and local sheep wool; sheep spared of chemical pesticides (bless their little wool socks)! To a large extent the threads are artisanally colored with minerals and plant-based dye, such as elderberry fruits, tree barks, leaves, cochineal insects, and indigo. They also incorporate recycled materials into their designs, such as used plastic bags and reused denim jeans threads. 

Y’abal has also joined together with the rural community of Chuicutama to start a reforestation project, an area of the Western Highlands severely affected by deforestation. It’s an honor for Y’abal to support this community in their efforts to rebuild their forests and have contributed over 5000 trees to the project. Here’s to a greener future and maintaining a great relationship with mother earth! 

Women’s Peace Collection is 100% committed to environmentally sustainable practices in everything they do. Their clothing, jewelry, and accessories are largely made with recycled textiles or organic cotton and their metal jewelry is sourced from recycled metals or sustainable mining operations. Additionally, their baskets, some of their clothing, and many of their accessories are sourced from renewable plant and animal materials such as pine needles, grasses, bamboo, and alpaca. 

They also decided last year to eliminate all plastic shipping packages. Their minimalist packaging now includes recycled and recyclable paper and cardboard, as well as reused packing paper. The majority of their packages also ship First Class as part of an effort to cut down on air travel. Additionally, Women’s Peace Collection recently introduced a new feature at checkout on their website where they offer customers the option to pay to plant trees in order to offset their carbon footprint. They strive to have environmental stewardship at the top of their priority list, always!

Dandarah actively seeks many ways to ensure environmental stewardship in their work. They contribute at least one percent of annual sales to environmental causes as a member of 1% for The Planet. They work with partner artisans on investigating ways to increase utilization of natural fibers and dyes. They continuously look for ways to improve their supply chain and packaging to reduce their environmental footprint – by using biodegradable peanuts for shipping, reusing shipping boxes and shipping materials, using kraft wrapping, and replacing materials in their packaging with eco-friendly alternatives. 

Dandarah’s team also always seeks to learn more about environmental stewardship by participating in events and courses, such as Fashion Revolution’s Fashion & Sustainable Development course and See Change 2021 climate-focused sessions. There are still so many ways to learn & improve, and it is even better to do it together as a community!

The Center for Amazon Community Ecology (CACE) focuses on helping artisans make a wide range of innovative fair trade handicrafts woven from sustainably harvested chambira palm fiber. One of their key strategies to conserving the Amazon rainforest is to help forest peoples make and market value-added non-timber forest products so families can make a living without damaging the forest. 

They provide seeds, seedlings, and/or training to partners to create nurseries and successfully plant more chambira trees to increase the supply of this vital craft-making material. They encourage artisan partners to harvest leaf spears with a pruning saw instead of a machete to reduce damage to other parts of the tree. They also offer training on making new products like woven bird ornaments that have strong markets and use the chambira more sparingly than bulky products like hammocks which consume a huge amount of the resource for relatively little profit.  

Additionally, CACE supports artisan associations in creating and implementing community-based management plans that set harvesting standards and reforestation goals to carefully use chambira trees that exist and increase their abundance so artisans can make more crafts and generate more income to achieve their goals for their families in the future.

When we don’t see how people are being impacted, it’s fair to say we don’t know the impact. For future generations, Matr Boomie takes responsibility to educate consumers and be transparent to share the positive impact of their products. 

Matr Boomie’s products are made using either natural or upcycled materials that are sourced in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. They don’t use plastic or synthetic materials and that is by design. Their sari products are not natural fiber but are upcycled materials that would have gone to waste and are used to create a new byproduct. Currently, around 45% of their items are primarily compostable at the end of their lifestyle meaning they will dissolve back to nature. 

Manufacturers will always have a responsibility. They are the only ones who have insight into how products are made and if they hurt the people who use or produce them. Matr Boomie’s customers and community support them directly, the products they sell give their employees and artisans a salary, so they take responsibility in ensuring people or the planet are not cheated.

SERRV International works with artisan partners and staff members to promote the use of sustainable practices and resources throughout each handcraft’s journey. At the origin, they encourage partners to use sustainable and fast-growing resources, from recycled sari and metal oil drums to natural woods and grasses. They also support their partners in endeavors to improve the environment and provide financial assistance for projects like reforestation, wastewater treatment, and solar lighting! 

SERRV then transports products by cargo ship, resulting in longer transit times but reducing CO2 output and environmental impact from air freight. At their warehouse, they recycle cartons from producer shipments into packing material for everything from bottles of oil to terracotta planters using their “Green Machine,” which helps us recycle nearly 40,000 lbs of cardboard cartons every year! This eliminates their need to buy craft paper to wrap products and keeps excess cardboard out of landfills. 

Their shipping boxes are also made from partially recycled cardboard, and their catalogs are printed on recycled paper using inks with renewable resource content. Lastly, in their offices, they use environmentally-friendly cleaning supplies and encourage recycling whenever possible. SERRV is always looking for new ways to innovate and continue doing their part to help make a greener world.

When thinking about the impacts of running a retail brick-and-mortar and a Canada-wide webstore on the environment, Villages Calgary decided early on that they wanted to make an effort to keep their footprint as small as possible. Several years ago, Villages Calgary started a Volunteer Gardening Committee that works tirelessly to tend a beautiful garden outside their store along a busy urban thoroughfare. This garden has been a small way for them to help offset some of the carbon they produce. 

They also use recycled packaging materials whenever possible. When they receive inventory shipments, they will save all the bubble wrap, paper, cardboard, etc., and will re-use those items when shipping orders out to customers. They even keep all of the paper from their shredder to help cushion fragile items! These are a few of the ways in which their store is working to cultivate environmental stewardship in their community.

Before joining Lucia’s Imports, Carlos was a Spanish teacher. To supplement his income, he started to learn how to make jewelry. Carlos specifically liked working with sterling silver and jade, but after a short time, he decided to begin working with leather that would otherwise be thrown out from the shoe industry in Pastores, Guatemala. His designs are incredibly popular in the local market. It was there, in Antigua, Guatemala, that Teresa from Lucia’s Imports met Carlos. Teresa saw how popular they could be for customers here in the US. 

Carlos is 58 years old and has 3 children. He is working towards having his own shop and sending his children to university. By working with sustainable materials like scrap leather, he participates in the values of circular economy, reducing waste and ensuring that his children are able to raise theirs in a safe and healthy world.

Global Gifts operates as a green business with a focus on the environment. When you shop in their stores, you will notice they wrap your purchase in unbleached kraft paper bags, tissue paper, and boxes. If you have ever placed an order on their website, your package probably arrived carefully wrapped in reused packing materials and lovingly packaged in a recycled box. 

They save and reuse everything they can to lower their costs and carbon footprint! They’ve recently switched to branded, paper-based packing tape, and sustainable paper products in their stores, such as Who Gives a Crap tissues and toilet paper. Even the lights they use in their stores are low energy LEDs, saving energy and carbon emissions. In 2022, Global Gifts hopes to increase their impact even more by encouraging the use of reusable shopping bags in their stores. 

The Himalayan Naari artisans are preserving a way of life for their children –  passing along their traditional knitting and weaving arts, as well as preserving the rural serenity of their community for future generations. For example, in January 2020, about twenty Naari members conducted a “Clean The Himalayas Day.” 

 The initiative brought awareness among visitors and residents to the upkeep of the serene mountains. The Naari members carried out a drive picking up litter consisting of single-use plastic and broken glass pieces of bottles. The campaign was, “If you trash, the Mountains Crash”.  

Picking up trash on local trails and fields in the Himalayan foothills near the Naari Women’s Center, the project was an expression of their pride in the scenic beauty of their remote mountain community. This work was also intended to model and inspire environmental stewardship to the local school children, many of whom joined in with their mothers in the work.

To learn more about the Fair Trade Federation community, explore the 200+ FTF member enterprises.

Cover photo by Coop Coffees

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