After spending nearly four years working on my environmental biology degree, I often wonder how can I make a difference? While sitting in a Fair Trade Club meeting on campus one day, it occurred to me that one of the most efficient ways to make a difference is to determine your role as a consumer. Choosing sustainable products produced under ethical working conditions and supporting better environmental standards can make a world of difference!
So, how does this affect Potter Park Zoo? Everything in our world is interconnected, so how we produce our goods directly impacts the workers, our environment and even our animals. One way that we can support responsible practices is through buying fair trade certified products. Fair trade certification is a voluntary certification process through organizations like Fairtrade International. Companies and producers that receive certification have had to meet a rigorous set of social, economic, and environmental standards.
Supporting Fair trade products help promote a more sustainable agricultural system that can help decrease deforestation and increase support for meeting higher environmental standards. Deforestation can break up the habitats of many plants and animals, a process called habitat fragmentation, or even completely destroy them. This is important because these habitats are homes to animals like birds, tigers and rhinos just like the ones you know and love here at Potter Park Zoo!
Deforestation is also a threat because trees absorb and store carbon, and when they are cut down, the carbon is released into the atmosphere and warms the earth. The poles are some of the areas most directly affected by climate change and as ice melts and sea levels rise, it impacts animals that live in and near those polar regions, such as penguins.
Fair trade also seeks to work with small-scale farmers. These farmers commit to meeting stricter goals on pesticide usage and aim to use smaller plots of land to farm. Many large-scale farming operations currently used are unsustainable because they take up too much land, use harsh pesticides and are monocultures – large operations that grow only one type of crop. Not only do monocultures lack biodiversity, but they can also put crops at a higher risk because disease can spread more if all of the crops are the same. Additionally, farmers under fair trade programs are compensated fairly and there are better working conditions, such as reduced child labor.
As you can see, buying products that support an environmental mission can help protect a lot of species all across the globe. You may be wondering what some of these fair trade products might look like. Some popular brands include: KIND, Starbucks Coffee Company and Patagonia, among many more. Products can range from coffee, bananas, clothing and jewelry all the way to furniture! Next time you head out to the store, choose fair trade and help promote better economic, social and environmental goals.
Here at Potter Park Zoo, you can find conservation items in the AniMall Gift Shop that are fair trade. Our Savanna Grill also offers coffee that is made with fair trade coffee beans.