Tracy with fair trade products at the MCIC office

Have you signed up for the Fair Trade Challenge this month? This challenge is about purchasing and consuming fair trade chocolate, coffee and tea for a whole month, which started on Halloween until Nov 29th, which happens to be Buy Nothing Day. When we buy fair trade, we empower marginalized producers as they get a fair wage and better working conditions improving their lives and their communities.

In the past, Fair Trade Manitoba used to start their challenge on Valentine’s day but this year they’ve decided to change things up by starting it on Halloween and they’ve also added four other challenges specific for offices, bakers, schools and holidays. You can even create your own challenge! There are also events this month related to ethical purchasing like chocolate tasting (yum!), art shows, film screening and webinars.

Green Action Centre signed up for the Office Challenge and many staff also signed up as individuals. The chance to win prizes was definitely an incentive to take part but one reason I signed up was that it’s a great opportunity to educate people about fair trade. Last weekend, I went grocery shopping and mentioned to the teller that I couldn’t find Fair Trade chocolate. She had never heard of fair trade before so this was a perfect opportunity to educate her about it. Here are a few actions Green Action Centre staff have done or are planning to do:

  • Jessie and Amanda gave out Fair Trade Chocolate to Trick-or-Treaters on Halloween night.
  • Tracy will organise a fair trade coffee break for the Eco-Centre
  • We’ve been eating fair trade chocolate bought from the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation office (just a few minutes away from Green Action Centre) and Mountain Equipment Coop (where our offices are!)
  • Amanda will incorporate fair trade chocolate and sugar into her baking.

We’ve had quite a few discussions about Fair Trade in our office these past few weeks and I discovered you can buy fair trade bananas, but there are only two locations in Manitoba, Mondragon Bookstore and Coffee House and Organic Planet Worker Co-op. To learn more about ethical bananas, read the article Education and Voice: How Peruvians improved their lives selling fair trade bananas published by the Fair Trade magazine.  If we start asking our grocers to carry them, then they might decide the demand is sufficient to start selling them. It’s worth spending a bit more money on fair trade products knowing that we are making a difference in people’s lives. To find out where to buy fair trade, Fair Trade Manitoba has an excellent consumer guide with locations throughout Manitoba.