If you watch The Good Place, you might remember a scene about a tomato.
In this scene, the cast is discussing their ‘goodness points’ earned on Earth, and they use the example of purchasing a tomato. A tomato is a healthy fruit, it’s not processed and should - in theory - be a positive choice. But that beautiful ripe tomato may have unintended consequences in our modern world. Were harmful pesticides used to grow it? Was it harvested by an underpaid labour force, and then put on a fuel-intensive truck to drive it to your grocery store? In essence, is that positive decision actually ending up as negative points in our current supply system?
For anyone who is interested in shopping ethically, we feel this tension deeply.
There are so many things to remember when we’re shopping. Does this product have added sugar? What about trans fats? Is the packaging recyclable? Was modern slavery used to make this?
To make things more confusing, companies can use marketing to appear healthy or ethical when they may not be. For example, did you know that in Australia you can use the word “organic” as a description, even if the product has never been certified as organic by anyone?
As a small business owner and a person trying to purchase ethically, this is a challenging environment to walk into. And that’s why I look for certifications.
Fairtrade is the most rigorous ethical trade certification in the world. Being Fairtrade certified means that the entire supply chain has been audited by a global third party to ensure that there is no slave labour, no child labour, and that the farmers are using sustainble practices.
This label removes the shadow of a doubt in my mind about a product.
At Eloments, we believe the best things in life are free and everything else should be fairly traded. We have seen first hand the impacts that this system can have on a person’s life.
While in Sri Lanka in July, we heard a remarkable story from a husband and wife team who had 2 acres of land.
They explained to us in Sinhalese that their first crop of tea was only 500 grams. Now with the help of the Small Organic Farmers Association, a fair trade collective, they harvest over 250 kilos each season. With this tea, they were able to install electricity in their house and expand to biodiverse crops such as cinnamon, pepper, and cardamom.
The majority of the black tea in our Ceylon Breakfast blend comes from small-scale tea gardens less than an acre in size (generally someone’s back yard that they’ve used to plant tea bushes) just like this one. We pay on average 260% more per kilo of ceylon tea than the market price, and we do it because it ensures a living wage for the people who work hard to grow this beautiful product.
It is not a radical notion to pay people fairly for their work, and yet only 3% of the tea sold in Australia last year was Fairtrade Certified.
There are a lot of confusing issues to grapple with every day that blur the ethical line. For me, choosing a Fairtrade certified tea is a simple way to use my dollars as a vote for the world I want to live in.