Homes: The ins and outs of fair trade

Homes: The ins and outs of fair trade
Fair trade goods come in many forms but they all provide better prices and working conditions for the farmers and craft producers who make them. (Courtesy photo)

By Jenni Leister and Kate McMahon

So many times when we talk about creating a more sustainable, green home, discussions turn to green energy and water conservation. But choosing your home accents can also be a sustainable vote for a greener and fairer world. From the living room and family room to the bedroom and kitchen, there are a lot of places to incorporate sustainably made, fair trade accessories and essentials.

Fair trade encompasses a wide variety of agricultural and handcrafted goods, including baskets; clothing; cotton; home and kitchen decor; jewelry; rice; soap; tea; toys and wine. While coffee was the first agricultural product to be certified fair trade in 1988, fair trade handcrafts have been sold since 1946. Fair trade changes the way trade works through better prices, decent working conditions and a fairer deal for farmers and craft producers in emerging countries. Through this approach, it enables farmers and crafters to have more control over their lives and decide how to invest in their future.

Why purchase fair trade? Fair trade proves that greater justice in world trade is possible. It highlights the need for change in the rules and practices of conventional trade and shows how a successful business can also put people and the planet first. It is a tangible contribution to the fight against poverty, climate change and economic crisis.

When thinking about adding fair trade decor to your home, there are many options. For example, pillows, accent pieces and wall decor can all be purchased sustainably and fairly traded. Floor coverings are another way to add fair trade products to your home. At Ten Thousand Villages in Old Town, you can choose to purchase hand knotted rugs from Bunyaad artisans in Pakistan. Bunyaad Marketplace works with more than 850 artisan families throughout 100 villages in Pakistan. Every Bunyaad rug is hand knotted using wool from the Pakistani dumba sheep. Known for its high lanolin content, this wool is extremely stain resistant and durable. Indus Imports, also on King Street, is known for its fairly traded, hand-knotted rugs from Kashmir and across India.

When you choose to purchase a hand knotted rug from any of these fair trade products marketplaces, you are choosing something that will not only be enjoyed in your household now, but for generations to come. These rugs will not end up in a landfill in a year or two. They can be handed down to your children and even grandchildren. With just soap and water needed for cleaning, these hand knotted rugs can stand up to what average families can dish out, including those family members with four legs and a tail.

Through this fair trade rug program, men and women work side by side in their village homes and are paid equally for every knot tied. By earning a living wage, families are able to send kids to school and remain in their home villages. Bunyaad rugs are not just gentle to the earth but also create a sustaining life for artisan families.

Jenni Leister is the director of operations of JAKCISS Oriental Rugs and Bunyaad Marketplace. Kate McMahon is managing director of Ten Thousand Villages.