Archive for the ‘fair trade’ Category

A Banana Dilemma   Leave a comment

So I’ve been experimenting with alternative bananas lately in an attempt to figure out what is the most conscientious banana to eat: fair-trade or non-GMO (genetically modified organism).

When I first heard about GMO bananas my first thought was that it was a silly joke. But unfortunately not. I guess banana plantations are being hit by all kinds of problems, as plague any extensive monoculture crops (especially given that cultivated bananas are sterile – no seeds – and propagated by cuttings, which doesn’t really help maintain genetic diversity). I hadn’t thought about it before, but now it seems like an inevitable problem since bananas are an immensely popular fruit and there is only one cultivar that is generally recognized as being a “banana”. I am not a supporter of genetic modifications. As a result, even though I don’t eat very many bananas typically, I want don’t want to contribute to an inevitable problem. Since it is winter and so harder to come by local fresh fruit for smoothies, I decided it is a good time to experiment with other types of available bananas. My husband has dutifully purchased me reds and babies (which I think I knew as finger bananas), and I can say that they work just fine. The babies take a really long time to ripen, so I suspect that the textural difference between the classic yellow banana and the reds and babies may be mostly due to differences in the amount of time harvested before maturity.

While eating other banana cultivars is all well and good to not contribute to the need for genetic modification, there is the other concern about labor. Fair trade bananas are available in some stores, and they ensure that the people growing and harvesting the bananas are paid a fair wage, have decent working conditions, and that child labor is not used. These are very important and when it comes to tea, coffee, chocolate, sugar, and vanilla I will only buy certified fair trade. Where is the balance, though, between the labor and non-GMO problems? My inclination is to buy the non-fair-trade non-classic-yellow-banana varieties. I figure that if lack of genetic diversity and problems with fungus and disease are so bad, that it is better to use my tiny market power to encourage more variety because these problems may ultimately hurt the workers even worse.

At least spring is here, soon to be followed by summer peaches so I can stop eating bananas altogether for several months.


Posted April 20, 2011 by mayakey in conscious living, fair trade, food

Tagged with ,

A Whole-Wheat, Fairly Traded Baking Party   Leave a comment

At the moment I’m procrastinating the prep work for my holiday party. I should have started the cake for the Buche de Noel already. This year’s theme is the oven because in our new house we finally have a normal non-disgusting oven that doesn’t set off the fire alarm. So I’m planning to bake all day. Some things will be savory, but there will be plenty of cookies, and the Buche de Noel. I’m hoping that people like the goodies, but it’s not a given because of two things: I haven’t baked a cake or cookie in over a decade, and I don’t cook with bleached wheat flour.

Yup, I’m going to attempt to feed a bunch of non-hippies whole wheat flour desserts. I’ve been using whole wheat flour for my scones, so I think it is doable for cookies. I bought some whole wheat pastry flour, and I know that I will need to adjust recipes on the fly a bit to add a little bit more moisture to compensate for the different flour. I’m not too worried about flavors since everything planned is filled with goodies. Even the cake recipe that I’m using has orange zest, orange juice, and almond extract. The cookies will be oatmeal cookies with goodies in them, plain cookies with white chocolate and cranberries, and peanut butter cookies (or at least that’s the plan). Why not just use regular bleached flour? Because I don’t think I should have to. Whole wheat flour seems more real and down-to-earth to me. I think that with the fiber included in the flour, the resulting cookies are a little bit better on the blood sugar levels, too. My mom has tweaked several recipes to reduce the fat and sugar, and as a result we call them “breakfast cookies” because they are healthy enough to eat for breakfast. I hope that with the addition of whole wheat flour that is even more true.

Not only am I trying to be healthy for this party, but I’m also trying to be an example of shopping with conscience-ness. It will be as fair trade of a party as I can make it, which is unfortunately less fair trade than I’d like. I only buy fair trade sugar, partly because I support fair trade standards and partly because I am so opposed to the ridiculous sugar quotas and tariffs in the US. So we have coarse raw cane sugar and fine sugar that are both fair trade. Unfortunately we weren’t able to find fair trade confectioner’s sugar. Likewise the semi-sweet chocolate chips are fair trade, but the baking chocolate and cocoa are not certified (but they claim to be fairly traded), and I was not able to find fair trade cocoa nibs or white chocolate. That really disappointed me because I know for a fact that I have purchased fair trade cocoa nibs before. I do what I can, and unfortunately when shopping at the last minute options are limited. One last ingredient, the vanilla, is real, organic, and fair trade certified.

Posted December 18, 2010 by mayakey in conscious living, fair trade, food, health, shopping

Tagged with

Another Successful Green Festival Trip   1 comment

This weekend is(was) the 9th Annual Green Festival in San Francisco. I’ve been going since the first one in the fall of 2002, when I was in grad school. At the time, my long distance phone company was CREDO (then Working Assets), and I got a mailing from them saying that all Working Assets customers got free admission to this event in San Francisco. So I went. And I got hooked. At first I had no interest at all in the speakers, and I just went for the hundreds of vendors. It was the only place all year where I could physically shop (as opposed to shopping online) for fair trade goods, organic goods, recycled goods, etc. And it was a great way to expand my list of online vendors as well. But after maybe four years of that I had acquired a huge bookmark list of online vendors, and I was no longer enticed by the idea of driving two hours each way and wandering the aisles of the festival by myself just so that I could actually try clothes on before buying and get a jump start on my xmas shopping. So I skipped a year. The following year I looked at the speaker list and realized that I had been missing out! So now I have been going with my sister-in-law and concentrating on seeing interesting presentations punctuated by vendor browsing.

This time I listened to presentations on simple living, the fair trade apparel business, vermiculture, the intersection of religion and the “green” movement, a case study for healing an auto-immune disorder through food and environmental modification, and the need for optimism to fuel the “green” movement. The speakers were all very good. Of course I got more out of some of the presentations than others. I didn’t walk away with as long of a list of potential blog topics as I did at the spring Green Festival this past April; but considering that I haven’t made a dent in that list I think that is okay. I had an additional strategy this time of perusing the vendor list in advance and noting the locations of a handful of known vendors that I knew I wanted to visit. That way I wouldn’t miss out on anything that I already like, and therefore didn’t need to rush through the rest of the ~500 vendors to make sure I wasn’t missing something. I did find some great surprises like a new vendor that makes recycled binders and pencils that look really beautiful, another vendor that was selling a perfect lunch bag (I’ve been looking for years now, so actually finding one that I think I would like is a surprise), and a couple seed-saver organizations that had seed packets for sale (I just got lettuce since the future garden is still concrete). And of course I splurged on a new shirt at one of my favorite fair trade clothing companies.

Posted November 7, 2010 by mayakey in conscious living, fair trade, shopping

Tagged with

Ready for Trick-or-Treaters, Maybe   Leave a comment

We’ve got our mini-chocolate bars, we’ve got a tub of pretzel bags. We might just be ready for Halloween (well the trick-or-treating part anyway).

For the last several years I have been buying fair trade mini-chocolate bars to give out for Halloween. Since we have to order them online it means that we can’t be last minute on our Halloween candy. The fair trade thing is really important to me as a part of my “conscience living”. Buying fair trade is all about economic empowerment. It ensures that the people who produced the product received sustainable living wages, and usually other social benefits. Fair trade products are also often organic, to protect the workers. The list of products that may be certified fair trade is constantly growing: chocolate, tea, coffee, sugar, bananas, sports balls, vanilla, rice, flower, and crafts. I insist on fair trade tea, chocolate, and sugar for myself; and it just seems wrong to me to be cheap with non-fair trade stuff for other people. So I pay a little (ok, a lot) more to special order mini-chocolates made from fairly traded chocolate and sugar. This year we bought from Equal Exchange, and I’ve bought fromĀ Divine Chocolate in the past. What I really need to start doing is putting a suggestion in the box at Whole Foods to sell the fair trade mini-bars in their stores for Halloween, because ordinary people won’t jump on the bandwagon until the candy is easily available in stores.

While I have insisted for the last few years on Halloween chocolates made from fair trade chocolate and sugar, I’ve been stymied when it comes to non-chocolate Halloween goodies. I have not been able to find candy made from fair trade sugar that I can hand out to trick-or-treaters. So we get the typical bag of “conventional” non-chocolate candy to supplement the fair trade chocolate. It really bugs me. But this year we’re trying something different. On a recent trip to Costco we discovered that they have tubs of Halloween pretzel bags. Perfect! An end-run around the fair trade sugar problem! So we’ll be handing out bags of pretzels and mini-chocolate bars. …And probably some non-fair trade sugar candy as well, since I think we should have bought two tubs of pretzels in order to have enough stuff… Oh, well.

Posted October 7, 2010 by mayakey in conscious living, fair trade

Tagged with ,