If you're like most of us, the week before Valentine's Day is a scramble to find sweet things to give. But here's the dirty little secret behind mass-produced candy: According to the Fair Trade Federation
, the U.S. State Department estimates that 15,000 children have been sold as slaves to the African farms where most cacao is cultivated. On the sugar side, massive amounts of herbicides and pesticides are routinely sprayed on sugar cane crops, which are burned after harvest, leading to ground, water and air pollution.
Not so sweet.
Thankfully, fair trade certified cacao and sugar are slowly but surely making their way into our markets. But what does fair trade really mean? In a nutshell: The manufacturers of fair trade sugar, chocolate and other products typically work in third-world countries to forge economic partnerships that can alleviate poverty, reduce inequality, and create opportunities for farmers and artists--especially women, who produce 76% of fair trade goods. These businesses combat human trafficking by creating opportunities for parents, so that they don't resort to selling their children or their children's labor.
But as fair trade manufacturing becomes increasingly in vogue, how do you know who's legit? In the U.S., the easy way is to look for packaging that shows a TransFair USA logo or the phrase "A 100% Fair Trade Company," which indicates membership in the Fair Trade Federation. However, some companies who genuinely support fair trade principles do so without certification; you can also do your own research to determine whether their practices are legit.
This Valentine's Day, we put together a list of gifts for the gourmand, spa junkie, ecofashionista and player, that are all fair trade made. Choose fair trade, and may Cupid smile on you!
FOR THE FOODIE
The design-your-own chocolate bars at Chocri
are made exclusively from fair trade and organic chocolate. The company offers 10 billion possible combinations of ingredients--many of them organic--to create your perfect chocolate experience, plus it benefits the DIV Kinder organization, which supports children from the Ivory Coast. 64% cocoa with organic pretzels and extra salt?
**During the week of 3/29, EcoStiletto members can win one of two $50 Gift certificates for Chocri Fair Trade Organic Chocolate Bars**
Whole Foods Whole Trade Guaranteed
products--such as 365 Everyday Value Chocolate Bars, Fair Trade Patagonia Wildflower Honey, Allegro Coffee, Alter Eco Red Quinoa, Fairhills Bus Stop Red Wine and Alaffia Antioxidant Shea Butter (okay, technically not a food item but we are addicted
)--are all certified to have provided equitable wages and safe working environments for producers. In addition, a percentage of sales goes to the Whole Planet Foundation, a private, nonprofit organization which provides microfinance grants in Latin America, Africa and Asia to support microenterprise loan programs, training and other financial services for the self-employed poor.
**During the week of 4/5, EcoStiletto members can win a $100 Gift Certificate to Whole Foods Markets**
Since 2005, the Sugar Land, TX-based (really!
) Wholesome Sweeteners
has raised more than $1 million for the sugar cane farmers it works with in Malawi, Costa Rica, Paraguay and Mexico, where it manufactures Fair Trade Certified sugar and honey. Their sugar cane is cultivated by hand and grown without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides, and their small mills recycle spent sugar cane into fuel to generate electricity for the mill and nearby villages. In 2008, the company introduced the first ever Fair Trade Certified Organic Honey to the U.S. Drizzle it on.
**During the week of 4/5, EcoStiletto members can win a $200 Gift Basket from Wholesome Sweeteners**
FOR THE SPA JUNKIE
Named for the women of Mombasa, Basa Body Stick, Soap and Natural Coconut Oil Body Lotions are fair trade formulated with organic, wild coconut oil from Kenya, harvested by women who are using microloans from Yehu Microfinance to lift themselves out of poverty. Basa Body
donates 10% of all sales back to Kenyan projects that work hard to alleviate poverty. But all good will aside, the three-product combo yields skin as soft and smooth as silk.
**During the week of 3/29, EcoStiletto members can win one of three $29.99 Kiss Me Packs from Basa Body**
Go ahead, slather it on: You can't feel guilty about Body Butter from Shea Yeleen
International, a nonprofit organization that founded fair trade shea butter cooperatives in West Africa to bring income to the native women who make it. Fifty percent of the profits go right back to these African communities to further empower these women to sustain livings and provide for their families. Need proof? Former Peace Corps volunteer Rahama Wright, Shea Yeleen's Executive Director, beat out 3,000 other contestants to become one of 80 winners in the 2009 Women Rule! O's White House Leadership Project Contest.
**During the week of 4/5, Four EcoStiletto members will win a $20 jar of Shea Yeleen Body Butter
We'll sacrifice our laugh lines to Liz Earle Superskin Eye & Lip Treatment
, an incredibly plumping serum that utilizes shea butter fair trade sourced from the 450-women strong Tung Teiya Women's Shea Association in Ghana, West Africa.
**During the week of 4/12, Two EcoStiletto members will each win a tube of Liz Earle Superskin Eye and Lip Treatment****
FOR THE ECO-FASHIONISTA
Paper-thin organic cotton Rain Tees from Andira International
are the layers of choice at EcoStiletto central. Andira uses fair trade labor practices to create products that inspire global awareness of logging and deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon; the company also helps to rescue endangered animals through the Merazonia foundation.
**During the week of 4/26, Two EcoStiletto members will each win a $38.50 Organic Cotton Rain Tee****
The simple elegance of Brilliant Earth
's 18-karat Yellow Gold Choco Fair Trade Pendant utilizes one of the first truly fair trade sources of gold from Oro Verde, a responsible mining cooperative in Colombia. Brilliant Earth is an online retailer that specializes in conflict-free Canadian diamonds, works with recycled metals and donates five percent of proceeds to communities in Africa who have been affected by the diamond trade. Oh, and did we mention how much we also love their recycled silver personalized charm necklaces
**During the week of 4/26, One EcoStiletto member will win a $100 Recycled Silver Pair Pendant from Brillaint****
We love to layer up with Zulugrass Multi-Strand Necklaces from Leakey Collections
, which was co-founded by former Kenyan Parliament Member Philip Leakey, the son of revolutionary paleo-anthropologists Drs. Louis and Mary Leakey, to provide economic opportunities to local Maasai communities in East Africa. The necklaces are made from hand-dyed, sustainably-harvested local grasses—wear them long or twist once for a choker, twice for an anklet or three times for a bracelet. So pretty.
**During the week of 4/19, Two EcoStiletto members will each win a Leakey Collection $52 Zulu Grass Four-Strand Necklace Set****
On our wish list? Big Cuff bracelets from the Hands Up Not Handouts
foundation, which donates 100% of proceeds back to producers to create self-sustainable communities (proceeds from Big Cuffs benefit the Qalandia Women's Cooperative in Palestine
). We love HUNHO's tagline, "Women make super cool stuff. We help sell it." almost as much as their mission of education and empowerment.
**During the week of 3/29, Two EcoStiletto members will each win a $50 Hands Up Not Handouts Big Cuff Bracelet****
FOR THE PLAYER
Up for a game of strip chess? Try playing on a hand-painted Peruvian board in which Incas, led by the Empress Nusta, battle the Conquerors, led by the King and Queen of Spain. The fair trade chess set is from World of Good
, which connects artisans from developing communities with mainstream retail markets through the eBay online marketplace. World of Good currently sells tens of thousands of products from 85 countries, representing nearly 200 sellers--many of them fair trade.
**During the week of 4/12, Two EcoStiletto members will each win a $29.95 World of Good Fair Trade Chess Set****
Vegan, FTF-certified Fair Trade Sports
balls are made from sustainably-sourced rubber in India and Sri Lanka by adult workers who are paid a living wage and ensured healthy working conditions. Fair Trade Sports balls also carry the first-ever "green" certification for balls and they donate all after-tax profits to children's charities.
**During the week of 4/5, Three EcoStiletto members will each win a $44.99 Fair Trade Sports Soccer Ball****
Savings.com Green Guru Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff is a writer, producer
and marketing consultant who focuses on sustainable fashion, beauty,
lifestyle and parenting--and the creator of EcoStiletto.com, an online magazine which explains, in real-girl terms, how eco-friendly choices can help turn
your carbon footprint from a ginormous Ugg into an oh-so-slender Manolo.