Today’s Solutions: September 27, 2023

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Chocolate once reigned supreme in Central America: The Mayans considered it the food of the gods, and they used cocoa beans as a form of currency. But the birthplace of chocolate has benefitted little from the chocolate boom — despite that this is where most of the world’s purest and most flavorful beans, criollo beans, come from. Actively challenging this injustice is Alter Eco, a chocolate-centric, sustainability-directed food company that has taken healthy indulgence to a whole new level.
Founded on the principles of forming mutually beneficial relationships between land, food, and people – Alter Eco sources products from over 200 small-scale farmer cooperatives in Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Thailand, and the Philippines, some with fewer than 100 farmers and others with thousands. The co-operative structure ensures that farmers manage their own business and decide how to spend the premium that comes with Fair Trade. “Alter Eco brings to life the everyday hard work of our farmers. Behind the bean, there is a farmer, a human being and an economy of an entire region. Alter Eco makes the link, creating a full circle,” says Maria del Pilar Castillo, a former coordinator at Acopagro, one of the many cooperatives in partnership with Alter Eco.
As a highly decorated brand with organic, fair trade, and B-corp certifications, Alter Eco is on the cutting edge of incorporating carbon “insetting” and soil regenerating practices along the supply chain, from farm to wrapper to transportation. “Insetting” is an alternative market-based option to apply carbon-reduction programs directly into everyday business practices. On the inside of their compostable wrapper, petroleum or chemicals or genetically modified corn.
Every year, Alter Eco’s co-op partners in Peru collaborate with PUR project to plant 200,000 native shade and fruit trees alongside their cacao crops. As a result, biodiversity is boosted in the forest canopy and at its feet, leading to less soil erosion, better soil fertility, and less chance of flooding and drought. More than 100% of the supply chain emissions are sequestered. Farmers diversify their revenue by selling produce in local markets. Crop quality and yields increase–sometimes threefold. When you take a bite of the bar, you’re helping Alter Eco plant roots. For a healthy forest, healthy farmers and families, and a healthier way of doing business. Alter Eco is an excellent example of thinking on global scale and helping on a local level.

Alter Eco Deep Dark Blackout Organic Chocolate Bar (85% Cocoa)

This low sugar and responsible treat is organic, vegan, paleo, gluten free, non gmo, fair trade certified, and carbon neutral. And it’s only made of four ingredients: Organic, Fair Trade Cacao Beans, Organic, Fair Trade Cocoa Butter, Organic, Fair Trade Raw Sugar, and Organic, Fair Trade Vanilla Beans. On the inside of the wrapper, you’ll find a story about Alter Eco’s  commitment to full-circle sustainability. Social activism has never been so delicious, but the best part of supporting Fair Trade is the knowledge that you’re helping to create better living and working conditions for small-scale farmers and producers around the world.

Not For Sale – Changing the world one product at a time

The provenance of what we consume is a complex issue. Often our daily indulgences – tea, coffee, chocolate, and sugar – come at a great cost: slavery, poverty, ecological destruction, human displacement and animal extinction. Many of us, including the businesses who make the products we buy, have no idea when or where the exploitation occurs.
One organization working to shed light on the way that global trade adversely impacts the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable people and communities is Not For Sale, a 501(c)(3) non-profit based in San Francisco, with satellite projects around the world.  Not For Sale seeks to create economic opportunities in disadvantaged communities, and works to stop human trafficking, exploitation, and unjust market practices by building viable, successful companies in partnership with local groups that return the profits back to the communities of origin.     
Not For Sale president and co-founder, David Bastone, “wants to change the way that companies and consumers think about their role in the world and how they can buy with their values and act with their values.”  In 2000 he was a venture capitalist and professor in Silicon Valley when he discovered that one of his favorite restaurants was involved in human trafficking, exploiting young teenagers from Bangalore, India, forcing them to work first in the restaurant, and then in brothels and vegetable fields in the area.  This led him on a journey of discovery around the world, from Los Angeles, Dallas, and San Francisco to Bangalore, Africa, Romania, Thailand and more investigating the flow of poverty, human trafficking and exploitation. He came back, wrote a book and started an organization to raise funds to build a village to house 150 stateless children in Northern Thailand.  As a traditional non-profit, built on non-sustainable donations, by 2007 Not For Sale was successful at helping nearly 20,000 people get out of exploitation. This was great, but only a drop in the bucket when you consider that there are about 45.8 million people living in slave-like conditions around the world.
Then he and his partners woke up and realized there had to be a more sustainable model to build lasting change in the marketplace, alleviate poverty, stop human trafficking and end exploitation.  He put back on his Silicon Valley venture capitalist hat and came up with a replicable business model that has fair trade, sustainable business practices baked into its DNA. The results so far include a healthy tea (REBBL) that sources all its ingredients from suppliers who exemplify the sustainable and pro-community ethos, a coffee shop in San Francisco (St. Clare Coffee) that gets its beans from a stateless tribe in Northern Thailand and funds education of tribal children in the region, a high-end soup company in the Red Light district of Amsterdam that gives culinary training to women who are escaping the clutches of prostitution.  These ventures, along with Not For Sale’s ever-expanding list of ventures and partners, donate a portion of their profits to the organization to help more and more people and communities around the world escape the cycle of poverty and exploitation. By leveraging the power of Bastone’s Silicon Valley connections, finding the best talent and being purpose driven, Not For Sale is re-imaging the way companies source, produce, market, sell, and profit from their products, and making a serious difference in the world.           

What YOU Can Do!

Fair Trade provides a tool for citizens to make a positive impact. Here’s what you can do:


The best way to observe Fair Trade Month is to learn! The purpose of Fair Trade month is to spread awareness about worker conditions and increase the demand for responsibly sourced products. The Fair World Project and Small Farmers Big Change are two great resources with lots of excellent information. Look at Fair Trade Certified for certified fair trade shopping guides.  You can also read the Equal Exchange Blog for updates, and their History of Authentic Fair Trade Comic Book is a fun way to learn more.


Consumers have power and companies are listening. Put your money where your mouth is, vote with your dollars and stay resolute in your decision not to support corrupt business practices.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]

Why buy fair trade?

  • Help improve the lives of people who are discriminated against. Fair trade provides safe working conditions and fair wages for producers, farmers, and craftspeople.
  • Encourage environmental conservation. Ecologically friendly farming practices help maintain important ecosystems, improving the health of workers and buyers.
  • Promote a structure that allows investment—for education, health care, and housing. Farmers and artisans can construct their own businesses and help support others in the community.
  • Connect culturally. Fair-trade products are distinctive to the regions they come from, and by purchasing them you encourage diversity and a unique form of cultural exchange.
  • Get high-quality products without chemicals or pesticides. You help nature, boost your health and create a more socially responsible world.

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October is Fair Trade Month

The great part about Fair Trade Month is that it gives you the tools needed to bring Fair Trade into your daily life beyond October.

Regardless of what month it is, Fair Trade bids us to ask questions about the story our products and to think about where and who) they came from. It encourages us to be more conscious of the votes we cast with our dollars, every time we shop. In many ways, Fair Trade helps us be a little more human, and a little more aware of the world we want to leave behind for the generations to follow.
What are some of your favorite Fair Trade products?
Let us know what Fair Trade items or brands are your favorite and why in an email to We look forward to hearing from you!

Happy Fair Trade Month Optimists!


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