C-Man and I don’t buy a lot of decorative stuff. If you’ve been to our house, this will come as no great shock to you. Even once we finally gear up and paint the walls something other than white, though, I’d be surprised if we transform into knick-knack displaying, decorative bowl using, lots of little pictures in frames collecting type of people.
Leaving aside coffee, which neither of us drink, have you noticed how much fair trade merchandise is really just frills? Jewelry, scarves, scarves, purses, placemats, special use dishes, holiday decorations, and that loveliest of lovely useless crap categories: gifts. Shiny baubles.
Where are the fair trade curtain rods, hammers, measuring cups, flyswatters, and laundry baskets? The kind of thing that everyone ends up buying at Target or somewhere when they move into a new apartment, or runs over to Home Depot for when starting a project? Every once in a while I see a little bit of furniture, but overall, trying to rely on fair trade products to meet my shopping desires is not working for me.
I totally get it that fair trade good usually come from non-industrialized (and even non-electrified) areas, thus the lack of flat panel televisions and blenders and car batteries. Fair trade goods, as they’re promoted, come from people practicing traditional crafts or learning new crafts or skills they can do without building a big ugly factory. I wouldn’t wish the factory on them anyway if that’s not what they want.
The idea of fair trade coffee, even though I don’t drink coffee, actually works better for me than the shiny bauble model of fair trade marketing, though. Fair trade coffee is a replacement for non-fair trade coffee. Buying fair trade removes support from labor practices you don’t approve of and provides financial rewards to companies who do business in a way that you support. The shiny bauble model says, in effect, buy this stuff. Not buy this stuff instead of this other stuff. It’s a fundraiser, not a shift in consumption.
Unfortunately, if you continue to support the big bad guys while also supporting the little good guys, the bad guys are still going to be running the place twenty years from now.