LAURA CARTLEDGE Life’s like That...People power can be strong enough to make trading fairer

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Fairtrade. It is a word most of us have heard of but what does it actually mean?

I know it is a good thing and I know it makes bananas more expensive, but more than that I’m certainly not too sure.

With Monday, February 28, marking the start of Fairtrade Fortnight, I figure now is as good a time as ever to find out more. After some snooping I discover it really is what it says on the tin (of ethically-traded hot chocolate).

It is trade which is fair. However it dawns on me, if the definition is this simple then the complicated bit has to be elsewhere.

From Blood Diamonds to animal testing, the media is full of stories about the not-so-pleasant reality behind the shiny shelves. The more you look, the more you find. I for one have always tried to be conscious of where I place my pennies, knowing they go far beyond the cashier who takes them from me.

But I’m not naïve. I know I am just one person. And I know that, in the grand scheme of things, me eating free-range eggs or not buying cosmetics that bunny rabbits have been forced to wear before me is not going to change the world.

But is that reason enough not to try? After all we are all just ‘one person’ and it is when we come together we make a difference.

This year’s Fairtrade Fortnight is under the theme ‘Show off your label’ – encouraging people to boast about the brilliance of buying Fairtrade. But for many it is the label that is the problem as guilt-free comes at a price.

At the moment we are all being called upon to tighten our purse strings. We have a side portion of blaming the banks with our breakfast and the latest debt news over dinner – it is unavoidable.

And as you stand in the supermarket aisle holding two identical products, albeit one says value and the other Fairtrade, it can feel the only thing warranting the higher price is the circular sticker.

However I don’t think it is about completely overhauling your spending habits. Just swopping one item a week or being more aware of what is not written on the label will make a difference. It may be small but as a certain supermarket says – Every little helps.

Finding out more...

For more information on Fairtrade and the fortnight, visit the website www.fairtrade.org.uk/show_off_your_label/

It’s full of information and interesting ways you can help to make a difference, including a world record attempt involving bunting and why unfair cotton trading is stitching up West African farmers. You can also promote your Fairtrade events or find out about others happening in the area.

Fairtrade Fortnight, February 28-March 13.