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Fair Trade vs. food miles

As Fairtrade Fortnight moves into its second week it raises the question on everyone's lips: how do we justify buying fair trade goods from the developing world when we should be cutting down on food or flower miles? I've found an interesting article written by Steve Brooks, the acting head of Oxfam Cymru, for the Western Mail, a Welsh paper.

His question is whether producing tropical fruits, vegetables, or flowers locally to cut down on food miles could result in a greater volume of emissions because of the energy requirements to maintain artificial conditions, i.e. greenhouses in the Northern Hemisphere. He points out that sourcing locally and giving back to the local economy, which is something we really believe in here at GreenUnion HQ, is certainly important, but fair trade products have their own associated benefits, like supporting social and economic development projects - schools, clinics, clean water supply and proper sanitation. Moreover it empowers people in the third world and helps them become independent from the ubiquitous 'aid' cycle which is so destructive to sub-Saharan lives.

Interestingly enough, Brooks argues that food transportation currently contributes relatively little to carbon dioxide emissions. He points out that if everyone in the United Kingdom switched one 100W light bulb to a low energy equivalent, CO² emissions would be reduced in one year by 4.7 times the amount saved by boycotting fresh fruit and vegetables from sub-Saharan Africa.

Go ahead, buy your Fairtrade flowers and feel good!

Read the whole article at icWales.

Published: 06-03-2008

Published By: Rosie

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