David Anderson and Lyn Lucas are on an economic mission, and fair
trade is their means of making a difference.
The couple operate RedCorn Textiles in Broken Arrow, which buys
handmade items from Guatemalan artists at fair wages. But they
aren't simply importing purses and scarves; they travel regularly to
the country to better understand the skill, materials and time that
go into the textiles, and they work with the artists to price their
works and reinvest what they earn.
"We believe fair trade is a way of helping them earn money and
not just give them money," Anderson said. "If you give them money,
you're not giving them anything long term."
RedCorn Textiles is among Oklahoma's retailers who believe that
fair trade is the right thing to do to ensure people in developing
countries are paid a fair wage for their work and do it in a safe
environment. Although the concept is still gaining traction in this
part of the country, Oklahoma business owners and consumers are
increasingly stocking and buying fair trade products.
One of Oklahoma's community leaders in fair trade is Norman,
which was certified in May as Oklahoma's first Fair Trade Town and
the 17th in the United States. Stephanie Bates, co-chairwoman of
Norman Fair Trade, said her organization continually engages
retailers and the public about fair trade opportunities. This
summer, the group provided detailed information for businesses about
the types of fair trade products available for their industries.
Fair trade is still largely linked to coffee and chocolate, but many
other products are offered today, Bates said.
"We try to let people know that fair trade has branched out in
the last couple of years," she said. "There are now fair trade body
products, which means we can approach local salons. There's also
fair trade sports equipment - we held a soccer tournament using only
fair trade sports equipment. There are also new food items, like ice
cream and molasses."
To become a Fair Trade Town, for every 5,000 people, Norman had
to have one store that carries at least two types of fair trade
products, Bates said. Norman now has 23 businesses that carry two or
more fair trade products and 10 to 15 stores that carry one fair
Sara Kaplan, co-owner of Native Roots Market in Norman, said she
tries to stock as many fair trade products as she can, and she
usually works through a national distributor. She said her customers
trust her to have researched the quality and validity of a fair
trade product; in return, they use their dollars to support fairness
and social justice.
Kaplan said the cost for fair trade products is comparable to
gourmet items. …