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Monday, February 7, 2011

Fair Trade Towns

Do you purchase and support the use of Fair Trade goods? Or, maybe you'd like to but they are hard to find in your area? Consider making your town a Fair Trade town.
The growth of Fair Trade products has given consumers more power to vote with their pocketbooks by choosing these goods. Now, the Fair Trade town movement is taking it to the next level by making it a city/town mandate to support Fair Trade. The movement started in England with the town of Garstang, which declared itself the first Fair Trade town in 2000. Since then, the movement has grown to 600 communities on three continents.
In the US, the first Fair Trade town was Media, PA - now, cities from Austin to Boston are in the mix and pushing others to get involved. The organization dedicated to creating Fair Trade towns -- provides five steps for becoming a Fair Trade town:
  • Local council passes a resolution supporting Fair Trade, and agrees to serve Fair Trade products (for example, in meetings, offices and canteens).
  • A range of Fair Trade products are available locally (targets vary from country to country)
  • Schools, workplaces, places of worship and community organisations support Fair Trade and use Fair Trade products whenever possible
  • Media coverage and events raise awareness and understanding of Fair Trade across the community.
  • A Fair Trade steering group representing different sectors is formed to co-ordinate action around the goals and develop them over the years.
Once the criteria have been met, the city or town will then be recognized by the national steering committee and can start calling themselves a Fair Trade town. The US steering committee also has a website where you can go to learn about how to organize and meet the criteria as well as look at what other cities have done.
Sounds easy enough right? While most cities involved haven't faced significant difficulty in achieving the certification once they start out, the process can be a lengthy one and does require a core group of committed individuals. Since this is a grass roots movement, the first big hurdle is educating decision makers about the benefits of Fair Trade. Once people understand the benefits, the infrastructure has to be set up including a procurement schedule as well as support from local businesses. Depending on the size of the community working towards certification, this can take some time.
Interested parties will also have to become familiar with the way their city/town councils work and what it will take to get a declaration on the council agenda. This process is not always clear or easy when the action starts from a citizen level. Overall, the process is defined by time spent and education, making commitment key.
Becoming a Fair Trade town is to truly live the motto, "think locally, act globally." Each new Fair Trade town creates an impact and new opportunity for not only the town itself but farmers and workers the world over. Supporting Fair Trade also helps create a more sustainable world allowing us all to enjoy our cities and towns as well as our livelihood's for a long time to come.

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