Fair Trade Federation Conference- Burlington, Vermont

Last week I attended the annual Fair Trade Federation conference, an organization of which I am a member of. I never did write a blog post about the conference last year. I found it difficult to express my feelings about that conference, it was a lot to process and I couldn’t find a true conclusion to everything I learned there.

This year had a different feel to it, the atmosphere and the themes spoken of. I met amazing people I never met last year, listened to Ben Cohen speak about quantifying love, discovered a cute and sustainable town, ate fair trade ice cream, learned some digital marketing, became aware of facts that shocked me and got to listen to a lot of Americans tell me they are moving to Canada if Donald Trump becomes president.

I even had an aha moment during the Small Scale Farmer and Climate Change session. The panel consisted of members who work with coffee, cotton and palm oil. I could sense a lot of emotion from these speakers as they spoke about the farmers they work with and how if we don’t reverse the effect of climate change now, these farmers will have nothing left to farm.

It’s a devastating thought when you hear that there are 25 million coffee farmers and that in 2050 a projected 50% of land will be unusable to grow coffee because of climate change. Even more devastating, when you add all the people involved in coffee production, adding up to approximately 500 million.

Less than 1% of cotton farmers grow their crops organically. If all coffee, cotton (and tobacco) were grown organically, 3/4 of the worlds pesticides would be eliminated, 91% less water would be used and 75% less energy would be needed.

The question was brought up, as retailers do you and how do you communicate this to your customers? I had to admit that I share what I can but I don’t go over and above when it comes to environment impact, I always keep to the fair trade aspect of the clothing. It was reminded to me that as a retailer it’s my responsibility to share the stories of the brands and the producers and I left feeling like I needed to put a larger emphases on climate change. I’ve always been environmentally conscious, but found it secondary to my passion for social justice, but maybe they aren’t separate, maybe one wouldn’t exist with out the other?

Stay tuned for stories about farmers and artisans that are fighting against climate change. In the meantime watch this very informative video.