Local vs. Fair Trade: Which Way to Go

In the mighty plight to live a lighter life, planet wise, things aren’t always as easy as ditch the plastic bags. Like when it comes to buying locally versus buying fair trade. I recently stood at my health food store with two bars of dark chocolate, one fair trade and the other local. Which is better, I wondered. Let’s take a gander.

Buying Locally

The locavore movement has grown drastically, perhaps in part due to the 100 Mile-Diet: A Year of Local Eating written in 2005 by a Canadian couple and the growing concern (euphemism much?) over environmental issues. The USDA reports that nearly 7,175 farmers markets selling local produce are active across our nation, with a significant increase just in the last year or two.

People buy local for a number of reasons, from freshness and taste to supporting their local community, while also fostering a sense of community. Eating locally also just seems like the most natural thing to do, eating what’s in season in our respective regions. Here’s a list of reasons that Ethical Ocean gives for going local:

  • Buying local goods from farmers markets or local-only grocers helps to infuse money into your local economy and boost local agriculture. 
  • When purchasing products from a large-chain grocery-store, only 10 percent of the revenue goes back into the local economy.
  • On average, produce travels 1,838 miles using 11 billion gallons of fuel annually.
  • If just 10 percent of items purchased from a market were made locally, 310,000 gallons of fuel could be saved annually. 

Buying Fair Trade

Fair Trade, on the other hand, is a far different bag. Often, items that are fair-trade certified fly great distances to get to our markets. But, they have a set of advantages all their own. Whether we like it or not, we live in a highly globalized society, and caring about other people’s communities in addition to our own, is no bad idea.

Concerned citizens buy fair trade to ensure that their product was brought to them ethically and in support of small farmers around the world. Last year, fair trade was a $4 billion industry. Here’s Ethical Ocean’s list for the fairness behind fair trade:

  • Purchasing fair-trade produce and goods helps to ensure fair manufacturing and trade practices between farmers, growers and grocers.
  • Fair-trade workers and farmers are guaranteed a minimum price and can get credit for harvests before they come in. 
  • Fair-tade gorwers have strict no-child-labor regulations, meaning that all children have the right to security, education and play.
  • Fair trade is currently a means to combat poverty by giving farmers the ability to survive against multinational corporations.

The Verdict

When it comes to fair trade versus local, I can’t say which is better for the decision is a personal one. It all depends on what you hold dear to your own heart: If you are a worldly soul who cares about those in poverty all over the globe, you are likely to support fair trade. If you cherish your community brethren and are a staunch environmentalist, the local route it is. As for me, well, let’s just say I bought both chocolate bars.


Ethical Ocean

image: hayouji