What is Fair Trade?

April 26, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Fair Trade 

If you haven’t noticed, the United States is not the only country with a suffering economy. As a matter of fact, even the worst off American is better off than some of the people in countries who we trade with, who work and work and work to still not be able to pay their expenses or feed their families. This is where Fair Trade comes in; it is a principle of trading fairly with farmers and workers in the name of equality. Making a heftier profit off of foods usually results in someone having to go without down the line somewhere, and in most cases poor farmers in countries around the world are the ones who have to pay the cost for our delicious and nutritious food.

What’s Wrong With Regular Trade Products?

International trade policies are not in the best interests of everyone. As a matter of fact, they are not in the best interests of hardly anyone, forcing hard working people out of business and allowing them to loose their farms and livelihoods in the process. Why must this be? They did what they were supposed to do and contributed to the world’s supply of food. In essence, they were just not paid enough for it.

Fair Trade is Different

Fair trade foods are foods that are grown and purchased outside the realm of international trade. These products are ensured to be worth purchasing and of high quality, but they are also purchased at a rate that is much more sensible to the farmers in question. Their products are purchased for a price that allows them to produce more rather than shut down their businesses, and they can feed their families even though their business is making sure that we are able to feed ours.

There are three main groups involved in the Fair Trade process. They are the producers and creators of the product, the importers, and those who certify that all products fall under the guidelines of Fair Trade. The idea of Fair Trade is a collaborative effort between those who produce it, those who certify and make sure that guidelines are met, and those who sell. Of course, the most important group of them all are those who purchase Fair Trade classified products, as they are helping to ensure a future for more people than they would have ever thought possible.

Keep in mind that Fair Trade is not only restricted to food. This is just how it is most commonly associated. Art and other products can fall under Fair Trade guidelines as well, just so long as all of the requirements are met. While many people fear going against International Trade and what they already know, there is no reason not to get into Fair Trade. Consider it your contribution toward the bettering of a life for someone who needs it, and one load off of your conscience.

Eco-Friendly Garden

April 26, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Organic Gardening 

Spring is just around the corner! As the winter drags on, we longingly look outside for hints that our garden is still there, buried beneath snow, but waiting patiently for warm air and cleansing rains. If you are starting to think spring, and think gardens, it’s time to think about what it will take to make your gardens and planted areas eco-friendly.

Here are some thoughts on ways you can go “greener” this year with your gardens:

1. Use Natives – You’ve probably already heard that using native plants is a very ecologically sound practice, and it’s true. Natives are better suited to your gardens because they are used to the conditions that the climate and region you live in provide. This means they are more resistant to native pests, and do better with the amount of water that is provided through rainfall, and are better adapted to the soil conditions in your area. This saves headaches, time, and water and significantly diminishes the need for chemical intervention. Using native plants doesn’t mean you will end up with a weedy, wild looking garden. All areas have beautiful and interesting native plants that you can create a wonderful garden with. Take time to research the natives in your area and find good suppliers that can provide you with locally grown natives.

2. Plan for water conservation – If you are using natives, you will automatically have less need for supplemental water once the plants are established. If you aren’t using natives, or not a lot of natives, you can still conserve water by never watering in the heat of the day – water early in the morning. You can also use soaker hoses that are placed strategically throughout your planted areas. These allow water to soak into the ground at a slow pace and reduce evaporation while watering the soil thoroughly.

3. Compost – Composting your grass cuttings (as long as they haven’t been chemically treated) and your non-meat food scraps is a great way to fertilize your plants, make the soil rich and keep your scraps and trimmings from ending up in a landfill.

4. Use natural pest repellants – If you have slugs, snails, aphids, mites or other plant pests, you will want to get rid of them. But, if you can avoid doing so by using chemicals, you and your garden are much better off. You can attract slugs away from your plants by offering them a bowl (buried to the rim) of beer. They will belly-up and drown. Diatomaceous earth works well at deterring slugs, snails, earwigs and ants. Bt will kill larvae and caterpillars that like to eat leaves and roots, and your can spray a solution of water, garlic juice and a drop or two of dish soap on aphids.

5. Use natural weed controls – No one likes weeds in their gardens, or anywhere else for that matter. You can pull them by hand and be sure to use a good barrier that will keep them from getting sunlight – one good way to do this is to lay down old newspaper and cover with mulch (mulch that is not chemically treated). This will keep weeds from getting the sunlight that they need to grow, and the old newspaper will eventually degrade.

6. Use recycled stuff – You can get pots made from recycled plastic and even cow manure (yes, it’s true) and garden edging made from your recycled milk jugs.

As we look forward to spring, and the renewal of our gardens, we should begin to think about how we can make our planted areas more Earth-friendly. If you incorporate even a couple of these ideas into your gardening season, you’ll be doing the Earth a big favor, and your garden as well.

zeolite

Ways to Green Your Office

April 26, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Green Business 

Our world is slowly turning green, eco “green” that is.  Many companies and consumers are learning that we need to protect our world in order to preserve it.  Enjoying an eco-friendly lifestyle should reflect in all areas of your life, including your workspace.  If you are interested in making the world more eco-friendly then you have probably already taken specific measures at home, but have you taken these precautions at work as well?  On average, people spend around 90% of their lives indoors, and most of this is spent at a desk or in a workplace.  

There are several ways to turn your business or office “green”.  You may not be aware that there are very easy ways to start right now, without much preparation.  If there is a computer where you work, then you know how valuable it can be.  However, it has been estimated that people spend over $1 billion in electricity each year on the computer.  To help conserve the computer energy, try investing in an energy saving computer, printer, and monitor.  

You can also switch your computer settings so that they are more energy efficient.  Many people have the habit of leaving their computer on when they leave the room. Instead of doing this, put your computer in “sleep mode”. Be aware though, that even if your computer switches to sleep mode, you are still running power to the unit. If you are leaving for the day, power-down your computer and monitor completely, and unplug them. Printers and other electronics should be unplugged at the end of the day as well (and unplug those cell phone chargers when they arent in use.) 

Try using less paper while you are in the office.  It is not always necessary to print out every email or memo.  Instead, keep the files on your computer so that you will have a reference.  Also, avoid having catalogues or magazines sent to the office.  This will cut down on paper waste. Instead, make your office supply orders online. Having a paycheck in your hand can be nice, but you will save more paper by having it directly deposited into your account.  Most everyone has email these days, so email your colleagues or employees instead of sending out newsletters on paper.  

Of course, you can’t cut out all paper usage, so buy recycled paper and paper that is chlorine-free.  You can also buy organic products that are made of bamboo, cotton, and hemp.  The other side of the piece of paper rarely gets used.  Why waste it when you can simply print on that side as well?  If your business relies on packing and shipping, then shred all of your old paper and use it as packing material.  Also, any paper that you have not used both sides of, you can cut it up in note card size sheets and use it for note taking.  

If your office has a coffee station, eliminate paper cups and invest in some ceramic mugs that are reusable. Or require that everyone supply their own mug. Paper cups should be on hand only for visitors or clients. Similarly, supply real spoons instead of plastic spoons and stirrers. Another quick change for the breakroom is to install water filters on the taps and encourage your office staff to drink tap water, rather than bottled water.

Recycling is the most obvious way of going “green” in the office.  Set up a recycle bin in the office for copy paper, envelopes, and magazines.  Encourage all of your employees to place everything in the correct bin.  Save all cardboard boxes that come in the mail, and then reuse them for outbound shipments.  Ink cartridges are also a great item to recycle.  You can either send it off to a recycling company or you can take it to a specialty shop where they will refill the cartridge for you.  It is also very costly to buy a new cartridge, so having it refilled will save you money and help the environment.

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