Myth Busters: Fairtrade Products

By Katerina Pickup

Welcome to our new Myth Busters blog series! There are often misconceptions around sustainability issues and I find it eye-opening to keep learning new facts which help me understand our environment and what we can do to live in a more sustainable way.

The Fairtrade Festival is coming to an end today and I have been reading a lot about Fairtrade products. I wanted to share a few facts that you might find interesting! Enjoy the read and please leave a comment. I’d love to hear about what your experience or opinion on using Fairtrade products is!

Myth 1: Only a small fraction of the price you pay for a Fairtrade product goes back to the farmer

This myth comes from the assumption that Fairtrade traders are paid a percentage of the price that a consumer pays for their Fairtrade product. However, this is not correct. The retail price of a Fairtrade product is set by the shop owner and is not related to how much goes to the farmer.

The way Fairtrade works is that the company trader who makes the product for the the supply chain receives the Fairtrade price which is a set price called Fairtrade Minimum Price. This is to ensure that traders will receive the same amount every time and are protected from fluctuations in the market. That way they are able to plan better and cover their costs even if the market price of their commodity falls. And that’s a fair arrangement, don’t you think?

Myth 2: Fairtrade products are more expensive

This is perhaps the biggest myth of all when it comes to Fairtrade. Consumers often assume that businesses respecting human rights, local sustainability and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world, will end up offering more expensive products. This is not always the case.

To explain, let’s start from the basics. The price of a product is normally made up of several parts. If you look at a bag of coffee, for example. Assuming that you bought your (not Fairtrade) coffee for £3, how much do you think ends up in the coffee producers’ pocket? Around 20p. So where does the remaining £2.80 go? It’s the production company, the retailer, several intermediaries in the supply chain and also the transport company that gets the product to the retailer.

The difference is that Fairtade organisations work directly with producers, cutting out intermediaries. This means that Fairtrade products can be competitively priced. And the trader is always guaranteed the Minimum Price.

Myth 3: Fairtrade results in poorer quality products for the consumer

Fairtrade products are often hand-made and not mass-produced like high street goods. This is why some people make an assumption that Fairtrade product quality can fluctuate.

In reality, Fairtrade organisations continuously work to improve quality and consistency. Through direct and long-term relationships, producers and Fairtrade organisations communicate market demand and monitor quality. Fair traders’ products have received accolades for their quality over the years including awards at the international Cup of Excellence and Roaster of the Year competitions, SustainAbility in Design, the New York Home Textile Show, and other venues.

Myth 4: Fairtrade agreements lock farmers into a fixed price

Let’s go back to the Fairtrade Minimum Price which is where this myth often originates. The Fairtrade Minimum Price is a safety net or a floor price, not a fixed price that a farmer will receive for their product. It’s carefully calculated to cover the costs of production and only comes into play in a worst case scenario. It is a price the farmer is guaranteed to receive.

If the market price of their product is above the Minimum Price, then the buyer must pay the higher price. The farmer may also negotiate higher prices at any time on the basis of quality and other factors.

Any amount the farmer receives above the Minimum Price is known as the Frairtrade premium. This extra money can be spent on improving training, improving farming techniques and building schools and medical clinics to support the local community. Fairtrade doesn’t dictate what it’s spent on but the Premium spend is audited in the interests of transparency.

Myth 5. Fairtrade means coffee and chocolate

Coffee was indeed the first agricultural product to be certified Fairtrade in 1988. However, Fairtrade has gone a long way in recent years to certify new product categories. These include bananas, cocoa, coffee, dried fruit, fresh fruit and fresh vegetables, honey, juices, nuts/oil seeds/oil, quinoa, rice, spices, sugar, tea, wine and non-food products such as clothing, beauty products, cotton, cut flowers, ornamental plants, sport balls, gold, platinum and silver!

Fairtrade in the UK:

The Fairtrade Foundation is a charity based in the United Kingdom that works to empower disadvantaged producers in developing countries by tackling injustice in conventional trade. The Foundation promotes and licenses the Fairtrade Mark, a guarantee that Fairtrade products retailed in the United Kingdom have been produced in accordance with internationally agreed Fairtrade standards.

The Foundation is the British member of FLO International which unites 25 national Fairtrade organisations (FLO-CERT) and three producer networks in Europe, Asia, North, Central and South America, and Australia.

Find out more at

Thank you for staying with me all the way here! I hope you have enjoyed the read and have learnt one or two interesting things about Fairtrade and how it fits in with sustainable living.

The Earth is a fine place and worth fighting for

The writer Ernest Hemingway is known for his economical and understated style. Taken out of context he echoes what we are feeling in wanting to be green. However, in fact, his emphasis is about fighting

I researched fighting in the dictionary and the majority of the definitions sounded aggressive or us versus them; A battle of opposing sides.

The crux of the matter is that we – every single person, company, government and country need to be united in order to keep ‘this earth as a fine place.’

Maybe the fight is within ourselves, as we have many habits and traditions that need to be changed to make the changes the world needs.

An example is Amazon. This company provides an amazing service giving us the things we think we need the very next day. No questions about if we really need it, there’s no need to plan ahead for things we might need and there is no understanding of the environmental impact it may have.

At a company level Amazon falls short on many ethical policies but specifically  it has been criticised for “helping fossil fuel companies accelerate and expand oil and gas extraction” in 2019, after it was revealed to have been offering special technology services to fossil fuel companies including Shell and BP.

(Source Ethical Consumer

The conflict is between living, growing and surviving day-to-day and finding other ways or companies who can provide what we need.

No matter how we fight against the huge conglomerates, they will keep doing what they do while they are making a profit.

We need to find a way for them to listen, to believe that their actions will affect their base line profits. My limited pocket probably won’t make a difference, but hopefully the knowledge that people are looking for other ways because of the global impact they make may, help them change their ways.

Meanwhile, in our house we will continue to ‘fight’ for this fine Earth by shopping with the Ethical companies we have found.

We have subscribed to the Ethical Consumer which provides ethical information. It is the first point of call if we are going to buy anything. They use the subscription monies to investigate and ask the questions that can be hard to find answers to and ask questions we didn’t know we needed to consider.

Introducing WH&T Going Green

By Karen Laker

Planning for the future is difficult in this current climate, we just don’t know when the world (as we knew it) will open up again.

Our planet is in crisis. Many environmentalists were calling for changes to how we live before COVID. Climate change is a major problem.

The pandemic has put a halt to many eco friendly projects, but there has also been a huge reduction on the amount fossil fuel burned as a result of working at home. There are reports of the immediate impact including better air and water quality.

Recent government changes also give hope of renewed focus on Climate Change e.g COP26.

We all have a part to play in looking after the environment. It may feel that one person/community/country cannot make the huge difference needed – we can’t believe that. We’re looking for ways to change what we do on a day-to-day basis. We are choosing to group together (albeit a small group initially) to do what we can in our villages.

It may be doing something as simple as collecting litter, showing respect to our countryside and hopefully creating more of an appreciation for nature. This appreciation leads to understanding the diversity in nature and wildlife and how important it is to protect it.

Yes we are dreaming big and are not afraid to start small. We just want to start.

Please get in touch whether it’s to share ideas of community projects we could do, asking how you could be more green, what it means to be carbon neutral or contemplating zero waste, or even if you’re unsure about what you can put in your green bin.

No question or thought too big or too small we are interested in all our community and hope you’ll join us.

Thank you for reading.

The Eco Worrier

By Karen Laker

The Eco Worrier – Yes  you read it correctly – I couldn’t quite class myself a warrior – my approach is more gentle.

I believe change one thing (at a time) and tell one person (who can listen), rather than shouting from the rooftops with words that may fall on deaf ears. We started being more green before Covid. With the spare time we had in lockdown, I was able to gain more knowledge which helped us up our game…we still have a way to go. I believe it’s important for our children’s future that we do what we can today.

As a society we have developed many convenience and money saving habits. Habits aren’t easy to change overnight, so by expecting to be perfectly green is a road to failure. It’s easy to say that one person can’t make a difference, and then give up.

We believe one household can make a difference to our own path through this world albeit it one or two habits at a time. We know goal setting needs to be realistic and you need to be kind to yourself.

Where to start?

Despite the wise words above my first thought was to look at having a day where we used no single-use plastic the house.

Here I came across one of the first golden rules:


There was no point using my newly researched shampoo soap and soap bars until I had used up the shampoo, conditioner and body wash I already had.

I had to be patient before I needed to find if soap bars and shampoo soap would work for me because of other habit changes.

  • Use half as much, it’ll last twice as long.
  • The realisation that I didn’t work in a dirty environment so daily showers weren’t needed.

I use for other products – they take back their containers and reuse them which is better than recycling.

Someone else in the village makes their own washable face wipes (you can also buy them).

Once you make the decision to change, it is amazing how inventive you can be.

Back to no single-use plastic day – did it happen at The Old Potting Shed? – NO partly because I was diverted by ZEROWASTE and partly because some alternatives to single-use plastic can cause other environmental issues.

A common one to consider is that we are shown the awful effects of plastic water bottles and its fashionable to buy aluminium flasks e.g. Chilly Bottle’s.  Aluminium manufacturing has its own problems and a finite resource.

Obviously, if you already have one don’t panic and throw it away in disgust. Just maybe don’t buy another prettier one or be drawn into getting one as a Christmas present for someone who has no need for them. Reusable glass bottles are a much better option.

Finding a good source of environmental facts and learning to see advertising for what it is can go a long way. It can help you make good habit changes towards a more green existence.

Meanwhile questions such as:

Do I need it? Do I really need it and do I really, really need it are useful.

I hope you enjoyed reading my first weekly blog as I revisit some of my choices (good and bad – yes you’ve guessed it, we have flasks!!) towards being more planet friendly and update you with any other news.

Please feel free to add helpful comments and/or ask me questions bearing in mind this is a huge subject and I’ll be dealing with just a couple of topics each time.