The Green Festival  took place in San Francisco last weekend, and it was an exciting and inspiring event for everyone who attended. At the festival individuals, businesses and community leaders come together to discuss critical issues that impact us at home and abroad. Organizations and businesses showcase programs and products that restore the planet and all that inhabit it. Neighbor-to-neighbor connections are formed and skills are shared to empower people to create positive change in the world.
Please enjoy this blog written by Kazuko Golden, Account Manager, Retail, Wine, Spirits and Floral at Fair Trade USA who led a three-way panel at the festival to discuss the benefits of an environmentally and socially sustainable trade.
A Toast to Fair Trade
On Saturday, April 9, I led a panel discussion at the San Francisco Green Festivalwith Michael Hutchinson of Matadorvino  and Danny Ronen, Brand Ambassador of the Fair Trade Spirits Company , to talk about the launch of Fair Trade Certified™ wine and spirits. In the presentation, each panelist explained how Fair Trade is about quality products, improving lives, and protecting the planet. I explained that every purchase of Fair Trade wine matters because with it's launch Fairtrade International  set a minimum price for grapes so that small farmers and vineyard workers could have a safety net that would cover the costs of sustainable production and fair wages. In addition to these fair wages, vineyard communities in South Africa, Argentina and Chile also meet strict environmental standards that allow them to receive an additional $.06 - $.10 per bottle to invest in community development.
A "hot topic" question that was raised during the Q&A section of the presentation was whether or not Fair Trade wine and spirits are also organic. At the end of 2009, 14 percent of Fair Trade Certified wines were also organic certified, with Stellar Organics  leading the way. A lot of excitement was generated from the conversation about this new Fair Trade category, especially around FAIR.spirits  (FAIR.Vodka, FAIR. Café, and FAIR. Goji), which are made from ingredients that empower communities in Bolivia, Mexico, and Malawi to lift themselves out of poverty. FAIR. spirits are available in a number of retail locations throughout the country and Matadorvino’s Fair Trade Certified Cantora and Soluna wines were recently launched in the San Francsico hot spot Delores Park Café .
Other inspiring Fair Trade speakers during the festival included Mathieu Senard of Alter Eco , James Roberts of Indigenous Designs , Zhena Muzyka of Zhena’s Gypsy Teas , Elizabeth O'Connell of Green America , and Maia Hirshenberg of the Hoop Fund . Elizabeth O'Connell of Green America started the Fair Trade pavilion speaking series with a Fair Trade 101 talk, educating the audience about how to find Fair Trade products. Mathieu Senard of Alter Eco took his audience on a journey to the source of Alter Eco products and talked about how Fair Trade is benefiting farmers and workers in Thailand, the Philippines and Bolivia. As part of his presentation he passed out delicious samples of quinoa curry and rice pudding to prove how delicious Fair Trade can be.
Zhena Muzyka of Zhena’s Gypsy Teas talked about her mission to share the story of the tea pluckers with the world, and how she takes pride in selling teas that are 100% organic and Fair Trade Certified. James Roberts of Indigenous Designs  and Maia Hirshenberg of the Hoop Fund  spoke about how communities can jumpstart development projects through mico-finance funding. With the help of the Hoop Fund, Ingenious Designs has already raised 30 percent of the funding needed for the cotton farmers in Peru to pay for organic certification, fund the labor required for cotton cultivation, and provide farmers with training on organic growing practices.
Prior to the panel I was also interviewed on Treehugger (www.treehugger.com/ ) by Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Dr. Brent Ridge, stars of the hit television show The Fabulous Beekman Boys  on Planet Green . Check out this clip!
The next Green Festival  will take place in Chicago, IL on May 14-15 (World Fair Trade Day!). In addition to a lineup of amazing speakers, there will be fabulous Fair Trade foods, vendors, and industry contacts - it's not to be missed!