Enlightened shoppers (April 10, 17, 24 and May 1)

February 12, 2008

When I was a teenager, my mom signed me up for a consumer judging course that lasted two interminable days. It was tedious — comparing thread counts and other manufacturing details against cost per unit for something as scintillating as men’s undershirts. Who needs to waste time on that?

Naturally, I use those critical thinking skills all the time now and only wish I’d developed more of them earlier. That’s why I was happily surprised to see a new series of classes at the Missouri Botanical Garden that aim to enlighten shoppers on the ins and outs of fair trade. It’s one of those concepts that everyone feels they should support, but most of us don’t know much about it, especially across the range of products these classes cover: coffee, clothes, jewelry, etc.

The garden’s education coordinators have done a great job lining up the entrepreneurial instructors, all of whom are involved in fair trade projects personally, at rates that anyone can afford:

  • Free for “The Basics of Fair Trade — What is Fair Trade?” (registration is required), 7 p.m. on April 10
  • $5 for “Fair Trade Coffee Tasting,” 7 p.m. on April 17
  • $5 for “Justly Made Green Fashion,” 7 p.m. on April 24
  • $5 for “When Fair Trade is Too Dangerous,” 7 p.m. on May 1

The classes are part of the adult education series and thus are appropriate for older teens — the very ones who’re about to enter the real world, where checking the manufacturing details of basic items of clothing is a very necessary part of day-to-day life.


2 Responses to “Enlightened shoppers (April 10, 17, 24 and May 1)”

  1. Hi,

    As an independent specialty coffee roaster, I ready your post with interest. It is very encouraging to see enlightened consumers.

    I would encourage you to look beyond the obvious as you learn about this topic – the ideals of Fair Trade are great (inarguable, in fact), but in practice there are producers who for many reasons are excluded from the Fair Trade movement, and a commitment to buying only Fair Trade is effectively a boycott of those not involved who also deperatley need the commerce. I have a post on my blog on the topic:


    My opinion is that certifications are necessary in the absence of transparency and trust. Of course in modern commerce these aspects are bound to suffer to some extent, but we can all make choices to increase the level of transparency and trust in our day-to-day dealings. As a consumer, you make a choice with every dollar you spend, even if that choice is to ignore things.


  2. mom22kids Says:

    Hi Jim,
    Thanks for your comment, and sorry it took so long for me to get it up here — it nearly got lost in the spam file.

    I totally agree with you about the fair trade label being merely one tool consumers should use as they evaluate their purchasing decisions, and I hope people will check out your link for more information.

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