Unique Batik Blog

Get your fair trade on!


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Honoring the endless circle of friendship

As summer transitions to fall, it may be time to, as the traditional children’s song says, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other gold.” There’s no minimum to how many friends each person is required to have, but there’s no limit either As long as they’re true blue (as well as silver or gold), you can never have enough friends.

And what’s the second verse to that song? “A circle is round, it has no end. That’s how long I’ll be your friend.” And there you have the idea behind friendship bracelets – an endless circle that represents a friendship without end. Whether handcrafted (a la 1970s macramé or 21st century beaded) or purchased, the gift of a friendship bracelet comes from the heart and reminds the recipient he or she is loved and never alone in the world.

Friendship bracelets recognize and celebrate a variety of relationships. Even though they’re technically one size fits all, individual designs may lend themselves to specific friendships.

I’m going to miss you, friend

neon friendship

He or she was your summer your camp buddy, your summer-job-away-from-home confidante, your driver’s ed partner. Now you’re going your separate ways and you’d like to offer a light, “it was fun to know you” goodbye gift Neon Summer Friendship bracelets are an obvious choice, but not just because of their name. The bright colors and basic design encourages staying in touch without pressure.

Crazy fun friend

0006123_todos-snapYou love this guy or gal who makes everything not just more enjoyable, but one of the best times of your life (or at least it seems that way in the moment). The Butterfly Slip Knot bracelet, the Skinny Crystal Bracelet and the Skinny Crystal Wrap tell your crazy fun female friend that you always want to be on her speed dial list. The Santiago Snap and the Todos Snap are a little more masculine, but let your crazy fun male friend know that you treasure every zany minute with him.

Perfect fit college roommate friend

There are more bad college roommates than there are good college roommates, but when it’s good, it’s very, very good. If it’s happening now, carpe diem and exchange Chica Friendship bracelets. But maybe your perfect college roommate was a while ago and she became your bridesmaid or child’s godmother or held your hand during a challenging time. A Balsa Wood bracelet helps you celebrate the natural bond that was created long ago and still connects the two of you.

We’ve known each other forever friend

beaded friendship

Your mom dropped you off at kindergarten and cried a little. You were holding hands with your new best friend within 15 minutes and the two of you still stay in touch. You know a lifetime of each other’s heartaches and triumphs. The Beaded Friendship bracelet has a bead for every time she was there for you, in person or in spirit.

No matter how old you or your friendships are, acknowledging the value of an existing friendship with even the simplest gesture can polish the silver and gold in your life.

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How to tell if it’s fair trade?

Google “fair trade products” and you’ll be offered up hundreds of websites selling everything from food and wine, to coffee and tea, to apparel, jewelry and cotton. So the question arises: how do you tell if you’re really buying fair trade or not?

Mango

Fair trade or not fair trade?

The answer seems simple enough: the business should belong to a fair trade organization and be able to display a fair trade symbol of that organization on their products and/or website. Okay, but you there are a plethora of such organizations and logos. Confusing? A little. It’s a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack except there are hundreds of needles, and you don’t know if one will actually do what you want.

How do you even know what a given claim of “fair trade” means? Does it for example just apply to the raw materials used in a product (the cotton in clothing), or every step of the process (the entire clothing manufacturing process)? Contrasting with organic food production which has legally enforceable international standards, fair trade production does not.

So what should you look for next time you’re shopping online or in a store? The following’s a brief rundown of the most important fair trade certifiers and organizations and what their logo means to you, the consumer.

FLO, the international Fair Trade Labelling Organization

FLO

To myself personally (big coffee drinker; someone who likes hanging out in cafes drinking mocaccino while writing articles about topics such as fair trade) this is the most instantly recognizable. Of course recognition doesn’t imply comprehension. I naively thought it was solely for coffee. Tea perhaps. It’s not. FLO is an international umbrella organization made up of different labelling initiatives from 21 countries and covers a wide range of products including coffee, coco, tea, spices, fruit, and rice and even sports balls!

The distinctive blue and green logo was created in 2002 to replace a variety of different logos from member organizations. It’s the coffee connection which has probably made it the most recognized global fair trade standards brand, but what does it mean?

Essentially FLO develops internationally recognized fair trade standards. FLOCERT (their independent certifier) then check to make sure these standards are being met and that producers are treated and paid fairly. These standards apply not only to producers, but also to exporters, importers and licensees.

IMO (Institute for Marketecology)

IMO

Like FLO, IMO (don’t you love acronyms?) is an international organization which develops standards and provides independent certification and verification (through its Fair for Life brand). IMO began life by developing organics standards for sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and the gathering of wild plant materials. Fair trade seemed a natural progression and in 2006 IMO released as a more holistic, integrated approach to fair trade and an alternative to FLO’s standards.

Today IMO works across a wide range of industries to guarantee that in every stage of the production process human rights are protected, producers are paid a fair price and that environmental stands are upheld. IMO operates in 90 countries.

The Fair Trade Federation (FTF)

FTF

You’ll see many artisan handicrafts and clothing carry the FTF symbol. This organization works a little differently. According to the website its purpose is “to support farmers and artisans in developing countries through the practice of fair trade.” FTF promotes what is termed “360° fair trade.”

What this means essentially is that along with fair wages, safe working conditions and environmental responsibility, there’s a drive to empower people in third world countries. It’s the old adage of give a man a fish, versus teach him to fish. So initiatives exist to not simply trade fairly, but to think long term and provide assistance to grow third world businesses and create long term viable commercial partnerships.

Some examples unique to FTF are:

  • Advance payment to suppliers
  • New product development
  • Problem solving together (if issues arise)
  • Realistic time, work and delivery expectations

Unique Batik is a proud member of the Fair Trade Federation, partnering with artisans in Guatemala, Ghana, Thailand and Pakistan.

There are also other standards and certification organizations such as The World Fair Trade Organization and Fair Trade USA which also provide consumers with certainty around fair trade purchasing.

The main thing you can do if you’re unsure about a business (aside from checking for accreditation logos) is to ask questions. Think about it. If you’re running a businesses that operates in a fair trade environment, (whether it’s a vast online store or tiny stall in a farmers market) you’ll be proud and want to talk about it. You’ll have plenty of information available for customers. A key philosophical part of fair trade is trust in people. So talk to people, find out about what they do and who they are and go with your gut instinct.