What is a Fair Trade Product

There’s a lot of talk about fair trade products and why they are so important. Just what is fair trade, and what does fair trade mean?

The definition can be seen in the two words Fair and Trade.

Fair means that it is right for both parts of the transaction. The buyer gets a solid quality product that is worth their money. The seller gets a decent wage for the work they have done. It is in contrast to the many, many workers around the world who toil day and night for mere pennies. With fair trade, the worker is able to feed themselves and their family with what they earn.

Trade emphasizes that this is not a charity product. It is not that the buyer is giving the artist money for nothing. The artist creates something of value. The buyer receives that item and pays them a reasonable amount for what they get.

Fair trade absolutely should be a win-win. The buyer is happy with what they purchase. The seller can afford to buy clothing, shelter, and food for themselves and their family.

Our world used to be all about fair trade. It was the foundation for our society. Things got twisted along the way, so that corporations would make millions while the workers got pennies. Fair Trade is a way back to our roots, to where every person’s efforts matter.

I strongly support Fair Trade. It’s well worth thinking about the things we buy and to consider the people who made those things.

I purchased rights to the image of the woman meditating from DepositPhotos / artist Maridav.

Compassion Meditation Instructions

Study after study finds that we can improve our levels of compassion and empathy by practicing a regular compassion meditation. How does one do that?

Find somewhere quiet to sit or lie down. The pose does not matter as much as being comfortable does. If you have medical issues and cannot sit cross-legged on the floor, that is quite fine. Sit on a chair. Lie down on a bed. Whatever works for you to be comfortable.

Close your eyes.

Think about someone you love dearly. Think about how you care for them. Think about how you wish them to have all the happiness and joy in the world. Dwell on this thought.

Now move to someone who is slightly distant from you. Maybe a family member who is not quite as close. Think loving thoughts to them. Wish them well. Imagine them content.

If this is as far as you get the first time, that is great! This is all about practice. It’s about building up your skills.

The next time you do it, first start again with those closest to you. Then, after them, think of someone a bit more distant. Maybe a good friend. Wish them love, peace, and happiness.

The idea is that each time you work on this you go a bit further. You focus on someone a bit further out from your immediate sphere. You practice realizing that these people, too, deserve love. They deserve compassion. They are shouldering a lot. We are all humans with short life spans struggling to figure out our world.

The more we realize that we are all one culture, all doing our best on the Earth, the more compassion we foster. The more at peace we become with what we have.

I purchased rights to the image of a person meditating through DepositPhotos / artist Solovyova

How Do You Know Something is Really Fair Trade?

You’re in a farmer’s market and you see a beautiful handbag in turquoise that you adore. The bag is labelled as fair trade. How do you know if the bag is really fair trade or not?

Fair trade can be a tricky thing. It’s not like something saying 100% cotton where either it is or it isn’t. Fair trade is a more nebulous concept. Unless you know the people actually making the item, you have to trust a middle-man to accurately tell you where the item came from and how it was made.

One of the best places to go for more information is:


This is an international organization which works to ensure that fair trade happens. It lets a consumer research companies which claim to be fair trade companies. There are also a variety of ways to support fair trade there.

The best way to know, of course, is to look more into who you’re working with. Do some research. See if you can talk to people involved.

When you can buy local, you can be personally diligent about who you are supporting. It can be trickier when buying from somewhere further away – but that is rewarding as well. We are all in one big world and there are parts of our Earth where people begin life at an enormous disadvantage. Providing fair trade opportunities can help those people with education, food, and shelter.

I purchased rights to the photo of the person meditating through DepositPhotos / artist Lenar_Musin.

What Is a Living Wage?

When you’re researching fair trade products, and supporting small artisans, you often hear the term living wage. Just what is a living wage, and how much is it in actual money?

First, let’s discuss the concept of a living wage. A living wage is the sense that the worker is being paid enough to be able to afford food to eat. A place to stay. Electricity for their lights. It’s not about the person living a life of luxury. It’s not about cable TV or a car or anything else like that. It’s simply about the person being able to stay fed and dry. About having clothes to wear, even if they are second-hand.

You might think that this is a normal thing for people to want. But in many underdeveloped countries, the industrial nations go in, set up factories, and then hire people for pennies an hour. The workers slave away under horrific conditions, often enduring abuse and damaging their bodies. And yet they’re not even paid enough to get food to eat. We’re not talking about lobster and filet mignon. We’re just talking about rice or beans.

That’s why we’re trying to provide options. We’re offering tasks that people can do that are valuable, worthwhile, safe, and healthy. This isn’t about charity. It’s about the way life used to be before corporations swooped in to abuse people. About having people do something of value and being paid fairly for their efforts.

So then the question is – just how much is a living wage in actual numbers?

This varies from country to country and even from region to region. The amount of money it costs to get the rock-bottom cheapest apartment in a city might be different from the amount of money for that same option in a rural village. Someone who has the ability to grow vegetables in their back yard might have an easier time with food, compared with someone in an inner city where they have no access to soil at all.

Bangladesh is usually a country quoted as having some of the world living wages in the world. The average wage there per month was only US $38 in 2012. That means many people struggled to live on less than that! You might think, “Oh but things must be cheaper in Bangladesh” – but the point of a US equivalent value is that the buying power is fairly equivalent. Imagine if you lived where you are now and only had $38 for an entire month to buy food, never mind anything else. How much food could you buy? Would it be nutritious? How could you afford clothes to wear? You couldn’t even afford to buy fabric to MAKE clothes.

That’s why helping everyone have a living wage is so critical. It’s good from a social point of view – and it’s even good from a financial point of view. If people are stable and able to support themselves, they can buy goods that other people produce. Their products can be used by people who need them. It’s always better for a society to have everyone fully engaged to their potential.

Image of person meditating purchased by me from DepositPhotos / author name yogaposes

Fair Trade vs Ethical Trade

Just what is fair trade and how does it differ from ethical trade? If a craftsperson or artist in my local town makes their own products, is that fair trade since they are a small, local person supporting themselves?

First, let’s tackle Ethical Trade since that is the larger category. Ethical trade is a product or service which is done as transparently and fairly as possible. A local dairy farmer who avoids all hormones, who cares well for his cows, who allows visitors to come and see how everything is done, who sells at a fair price, and who supports his local community would most definitely be engaging in ethical trade. He is doing his best to be a healthy part of his community and to have everyone support each other.

Similarly, if a woman made her own jewelry out of recycled bottles that she melted down in her kiln, and sold that jewelry at a fair price in order to promote peace and compassion, that would also be a lovely example of ethical trade. She would be supporting her dreams while helping others achieve theirs.

This is not necessarily FAIR trade, though. Fair Trade is a specific subset of ethical trade. It focuses on the groups which have notoriously been marginalized and brutalized by the industrial nations in the cause of “profit”.

The core of Fair Trade is that people in those impoverished places, especially those who normally would get sucked into sweatshop (or worse) situations, have a fair alternatives to feed and clothe themselves. Fair Trade is about supporting women in Bangladesh. Monks in Nepal. Families in Ghana. It’s about places where, in the past, corporations would come in and squash the locals, having them work in horrific conditions for barely any pay. Fair Trade gives those groups an option.

With Fair Trade, traditional crafts are supported and encouraged. A living wage is paid so that people can be fed and sheltered. People are treated with respect. They have a say in the future of their projects.

In addition, Fair Trade also has the connotation of providing a community network. Health care. Education. Loans to get people started. And a commitment NOT to use child labor in the production.

So it is noble and wonderful for members of the United States, the UK, or other developed nations to create ethical products. One would hope that all of us would do that. But those products are not Fair Trade.

Fair Trade are for those who can only dream about having an education. Who perhaps live in a culture where women are not allowed to go to school or to work outside the home. Who face struggles we might not even imagine.

Support Fair Trade. Every human deserves the chance to take that step forward.

Rights to rainbow hands image purchased by me from DepositPhotos / artist Marko Poplasen

Welcome to my BellArtistry site!

Greetings, and welcome to my BellArtistry site! My name is Lisa Shea, and I began this site in March 2006. My aim was to create a place which promoted compassion and peace.

So much of our world is about us vs them. Getting ahead at the expense of others. Competing.

There needs to be space for sharing. For caring. For realizing that we are all on this one Earth together, and that every day is precious.


Image of tropical retreat purchased by me through DepositPhotos / author EpicStockMedia