5 September, 2014

Loving a bargain doesn't mean we shouldn't still seek out the right shopping choices

Can we shop ethically but still love a bargain?
by Jenny Foster, Bristol and SW Fairtrade Co-ordinator

In the latest installment of a series of thought pieces looking at how highly shoppers place ethical credentials on their list, Fairtrade campaigner Jenny Foster shares her thoughts on our struggle between the hunt for a bargain and trying to make the right ethical choices.

'I’m a Fairtrade campaigner, but I’m also a shopper and a Mum on a limited budget. I’d love to say that all my shopping decisions are based on ethical choices, but that wouldn’t be the truth. The truth is I care deeply about where a product has come from, how it’s been grown and how much the farmer and workers have been paid. But I’m also naturally careful with my money.

As a poor student I’d always buy the cheapest food, but when I was introduced to Traidcraft over 20 years ago, I was really inspired and delighted to learn that my shopping choices can have such a positive impact on the lives and incomes of farmers in developing countries. At last, here was something tangible I could do to help make the world a fairer place and reduce extreme poverty. Because I now work in Fairtrade I know what a difference buying products with a Fairtrade Mark makes to farmers – I’ve met many of them in the course of my work and know that they are farming with great passion for the food they grow and protection of their environment.

However, as I always say when I talk about Fairtrade, I know there’s other considerations when shopping, and price is a big one. Although I bought a couple of Fairtrade items I considered other items too expensive, and must confess to being a sucker for what seemed to be a bargain. But the more I’ve learned about how food is produced, the more wary I am of very cheap food, wondering how much the person who grew or made it has been paid, and how many pesticides or chemicals were used to produce it. I also hate food waste (my Mum grew up during rationing and passed her frugal habits on to me!) , so now I’d rather buy less and buy better – local and seasonal fruit and veg from the greengrocer down the road, free range eggs and meat, organic milk and Fairtrade coffee, tea, bananas, sugar, rice, oil and cereal. And definitely Fairtrade chocolate! That way I can try to ensure my own children are healthy and the children of farmers can be fed and in school.

I’ll always love a bargain, and I do succumb to the pressure from my teenagers sometimes to buy popular snacks, but I’m increasingly aware of how important it is to make good shopping choices to support farmers and help secure quality food supplies (and chocolate!) in the future.'

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