Fair Trade

Author: Megan, student at Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School, NY

 Sustainability has been a common topic in all of my school classes. For example, a sacrifice to cut out one non sustainable activity/thing from our lives in ELA, fossil fuels and their impacts in science, sustainable packaging in math, and how sustainable the current clothing system is in social studies. Sara Ziff (a model who founded an organization called Model Alliance who is also working on a film called Tangled Threads) came into my social studies class to speak about her visit to Bangladesh and her discoveries about the current clothing industry. A summary of her presentation is that the fashion industry as a whole is built on the backs of young girls who are mistreated, over worked, underpaid and work in unsafe conditions. Her presentation inspired me to find a better, more sustainable way to make products. In social studies we learned that there are three types of sustainability: social, environmental, and economical. I did research to see if fair trade items are more sustainable in all three ways than a regular, non-fair trade items.

Socially, fair trade items are significantly more sustainable than regular items. For example, I found out from www.stylewithheart.com/category/fairtrade/  that workers get a fair amount of money for the work they do. Not only do they get a salary, they also receive a premium that goes towards things in their community like giving them access to clean water or building a school. Plus, according to http://fairtradeusa.org/blog/win-win-win-consumers-farmers-and-environment the quality of life can also be improved by fair trade. “Fair trade is an organized social movement that aims to help producers in developing countries to make better trading conditions and promote sustainability. It advocates the payment of a higher price to exporters as well as higher social standards.” That evidence is from http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_Trade, On the other hand, regular non fair trade items don’t pay workers fair wages and they don’t treat workers fairly.

Environmentally, fair trade is sustainable. According to http://fairtradeusa.org/blog/win-win-win-consumers-farmers-and-environment fair trade items reduce water usage and help to reduce pollution. That means it is better than regular items because it uses less water and reduces pollution. That makes the environment a better place. Fair trade is a movement that has higher environmental standards than regular items. That evidence is from http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_Trade. With higher environmental standards fair trade is more environmentally sustainable. According to http://www.triplepundit.com/2012/04/protecting-people-protecting-planet  fair trade helps farmers to be better stewards of the land. Without fair trade some farmers struggle with money so they use cheap agricultural practices that aren’t good for the environment. I learned in science and math class that burning coal to make electricity pollutes CO2. CO2 gets put into the air and comes down to pollute the water 7 years later. With fair trade polluting less it stops the cycle of pollution in the air and then to the water. That means they don’t only keep water clean by not putting chemicals in the water, but also by not putting pollution in the air. Without fair trade the environment is being compromised. Fair trade is environmentally sustainable.

Economically, fair trade is sustainable. According to http://www.equalexchange.coop/about/fair-trade/faqs/does-fair-trade-coffee-cost-more-consumer, fair trade items/ products don’t have to cost more than regular items. Compared to organic or specialty grade coffee it normally costs the same or less. Even if it did cost more people are willing to pay the extra dollar or even as much as 40% more! I know this because when Sara Ziff came in to speak to my class she said that she did an experiment. There were two boxes of the exact same socks except one box was labeled “Fair trade.” The fair trade box was marked up 40% more but most people still bought the fair trade socks. Plus, in social studies class I learned about subsidies. According to http://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/subsidy.asp a subsidy is “a benefit given by the government to groups or individuals usually in the form of a cash payment or tax reduction.” That means that when fair trade farmers get subsidies, it isn’t coming out of the consumers pocket, it is coming out of the governments.

In conclusion, fair trade is a way to meet the needs of our generation without out sacrificing the needs of future generations. If everyone did one small thing differently/more sustainably then the world would be a better place where future generations’ needs are still being met. This is essentially what we are doing in ELA. We have all given up one unsustainable thing for a month. Instead of giving up things that are very hard to give up like television, restaurants, meat, and electricity we could give up something simple that will still have a huge impact. The thing that we could give up are non-fair trade items. People, companies, and factories should realize that fair trade is the key to a more sustainable society. Over all, fair trade is a more sustainable alternative to regular items socially, environmentally, and economically.

Author’s statement:

MELS-logoThis research paper clearly meets the learning targets: I can evaluate the impact of my choices on the world and I can synthesize my learning in other classes to connect to real world experiences.

I met the first learning target by showing how the fair trade system currently affects people, consumers, companies and most importantly the environment. Plus, I showed that the choices you make now can affect people in the future. For example I wrote “Without fair trade the environment is being compromised.” I wrote that because if we choose to buy non-fair trade items the pollution and chemicals from those regular items make could hurt the environment. One small choice has a huge impact and I showed that by writing about how choosing fair trade items you can impact the environment for the better.

I met the second learning target by supporting the idea of fair trade with evidence from other classes. For example I wrote about Sara Ziff from social studies to show my inspiration that made me want to write this paper. I also wrote about her to show how non-fair trade factories treat women/people. I backed up how pollution can affect all places in the environment with evidence about fossil fuels from science and math. Also I spoke about a sacrifice in ELA to show that giving up non-fair trade items is simple but still has a big impact.

That shows us that everything we do connects to one another and everything we choose to do or not to do has an impact whether it be big, small, negative, or positive.

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