Fair Trade Tea: Promoting a Healthier Environment
Guest Blogger: Katie Bouchard, Sales and Marketing Assistant at Choice Organic Teas, Seattle, WA
Guest blogger Katie Bouchard, Sales and Marketing Assistant at Choice Organic Teas, explains how Fair Trade standards and community development premiums work to promote and preserve the health of the environment on Fair Trade tea gardens and estates.
Fair Trade aims to lift farmers out of poverty around the globe. But beyond improving living and working conditions, it also plays an important role in elevating and maintaining the health of the environment for Fair Trade farms and estates. Through specific standards required for certification, encouragement for farms to transition to organic methods, Fair Trade premiums applied to programs and innovations that have positive environmental impacts, the Fair Trade program helps develop and sustain healthy ecosystems.
Fair Trade Standards
A portion of the requirements for Fair Trade certification sets environmentally responsible criteria for production conditions. For instance, producers must work to protect the natural environment of their gardens and properly manage water usage and waste. Farms and gardens are prohibited from using harmful agricultural chemicals and genetically modified organisms in production. Additionally, minimizing energy use is also encouraged, especially that of non-renewable sources. The higher prices set by Fair Trade ensure that farmers aren’t struggling to make a living, which can result in deforestation, erosion, and use of pollutants. By setting standards such as these, long-term sustainability becomes a working goal instead of only an ideal.
Fair Trade & Organics
Though Fair Trade certification doesn’t require farms to be organic, it certainly encourages producers to head in that direction. Because harmful chemicals and genetically modified organisms are prohibited, gardens have already taken an important first step in becoming organic. Fair Trade also sets higher prices for organic items, another incentive for farms to convert entirely to organic agriculture. Gardens that are already organic have taken it one step further through the adoption of biodynamic practices, as utilized in the Oothu Singampatti Tea Garden in India and the Greenfield Tea Estate in Sri Lanka.
Community Development Premiums
Fair Trade community development premiums play an important role in reinforcing sustainable and organic farming techniques. The Da Zhang Shan Tea Garden Cooperative in China has implemented training programs funded by Fair Trade premiums to develop knowledge of organic agriculture among workers. The group is dedicated to expanding its membership, improving working conditions and economic efficiency, and spreading knowledge of organic agriculture and environmental sustainability.
In addition to organic efforts, Fair Trade premiums are often used for community improvements that have positive environmental impacts. The Sewpur Tea Estate workers in Assam have used premiums to purchase gas and pressure cookers instead of using firewood, lessoning smoke pollution and respiratory illness. Chamong Tee Exports, which has Fair Trade tea estates in Assam and Darjeeling, has harnessed natural water resources to produce hydroelectric power. Petroleum gas has also been implemented in these estates to limit the need for firewood and deforestation.
Healthy environmental practices not only encourage tea and other commodities to thrive on Fair Trade farms, but also the surrounding ecosystem and the people that live on and work the land. The Fair Trade community development premiums that producers receive allow them to invest soundly in environmental sustainability, knowing that they’ll see a return on their efforts. By maintaining the health of the land’s ecosystem, Fair Trade farmers ensure a richer and brighter future for themselves and their families.
Katie Bouchard is Sales and Marketing Assistant at Choice Organic Teas in Seattle, Washington. Choice Organic Teas is the first exclusively organic tea company in the U.S. and is also the first to introduce Fair Trade Certified™ teas in North America. Recently, Choice Organic Teas became the first tea company to be Non-GMO Verified. Its earth-friendly packaging and support for renewable energy sources reflect its dedication to quality, sustainability, and social responsibility.