A Fair Trade Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is a fun time to show love for your community, the environment and the farmers who grow our food. Here are some of our favorite ideas and activities for celebrating the things you love this February.

1. Try out a few chocolate-based recipes to share with friends! Our Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies will warm your taste buds (and your heart). And who doesn’t love a cup of Fair Trade, organic hot cocoa? Get creative and try our Chai-Spiced Hot Cocoa for a unique twist on this seasonal classic.

2. Hold a short and sweet Valentine’s Day Fundraiser with our delicious organic chocolate. Wrap bars in pairs with decorative ribbon or twine, or sell individually wrapped Chocolate Minis. This is a great way to show love for your community!

3. Do something sweet for wildlife by making a pine cone bird feeder. The cold weather in many parts of the country may mean less time spent outdoors, but this is a fun and easy way to connect with the environment during the winter – especially with kids. Here’s how to do it. 

4. Celebrate great partnerships with a chocolate and coffee tasting. Check out our guide to chocolate and coffee flavors and try out our recommended pairings. This is particularly fun with a group – host it at your congregation or community group.

5. Get crafty with the kids and make handmade valentine cards out of recycled paper for classmates, family members and friends. Cut out heart shapes and decorate with colored pencils, stickers and glitter. Attach individual chocolate hearts or chocolate minis for added sweetness!

Have other ideas? Tell us in the comments!

A Visit To Our Olive Oil Co-Op

In late November, of 2014, I spent a day with PARC, Equal Exchange’s olive oil partner. As we drove from PARC’s headquarters in Ramallah to an olive growing community, Mohammad Hmidat, Quality Control Manager for PARC, pointed out a town called Bir Zeit, where centuries ago, Palestinian olive growers carved out wells in the rock to hold the year’s supply of freshly-pressed olive oil. We passed terraced hills covered with olive trees as we drove, and Mohammad explained that with care and judicious pruning, an olive tree can produce fruit for over 200 years. The oil co-ops here, supported by PARC, are doing what they can to ensure that the olive trees will bear fruit for centuries to come – in spite of some formidable obstacles.

PARC works with 40 olive oil co-ops, each of which is keeping tradition alive in their communities. On my visit to East Bani Zeid cooperative, I met with the co-op president, Rebhe Bakar, whose land and olive trees have been in his family for generations. We also visited the small mill that presses the co-op’s olives into oil. Jamal Hassan, who owns the mill with his father and brothers, walked us through a milling process in which nothing is wasted; every step of the olive oil production process contributes to the lives of people in the village. After the olives are pressed, the solids, a mix of olive fruit and pits, are compacted into balls and dried; these high-oil balls are later used as fuel to heat people’s homes. Later in the process, once the clear oil has been pumped out of its stainless steel tanks and taken to PARC’s bottling facility, the dregs at the bottom of each tank are allowed to settle one more time, and the oil that rises to the top, which contains too much sediment for eating, is used to make soap.

In some ways, maintaining traditions like these make this olive oil a bit different from most. Palestinian olives are planted on steep hillsides and must be harvested by hand. Olive trees in California and much of Europe, in contrast, are often planted in flat, dense rows that allow olives to be harvested by machine at lower cost. And unlike the large, mechanized farms with industrial facilities where olive pressing happens in huge batches, each of the 40 co-ops presses its own olives into oil, often in small, family-owned presses like the one owned by the Hassans. Their storage tanks, while made of stainless steel and kept scrupulously clean, are not housed in temperature-controlled buildings. As a result, the oil often begins to solidify in the tanks, much as olive oil does in a refrigerator. When filtered and bottled, tiny particles of olive fruit may remain suspended in the thickened oil.  It’s a natural by-product of a process that is maintaining traditional pressing practices and keeps this unique aspect of Palestinian culture alive in a very real way.

However, the current Israeli occupation imposes a constellation of hardships on Palestinian olive growers living in the West Bank and challenges the co-ops’ potential. The very formation of East Bani Zeid co-op arose as a result of the Israeli blockade of Gaza. With the previously important Gazan market closed to olive oil producers in the West Bank, farmers needed access to international markets to sell their oil. They turned to PARC for the training and support they needed to produce the consistently high-quality oil for export, as well as to facilitate the export process.

That process has become increasingly difficult over time. Since the Israeli government began to build the separation wall between Israel and Palestine about ten years ago, all people and products traveling between the two territories must pass through Israeli checkpoints for inspection. The oil on pallets that are removed from a Palestinian truck at a checkpoint and then loaded back onto an Israeli truck for their journey through Israel. Bottles are damaged and broken in the process, which costs PARC more than twice as much as shipping did before.

However, PARC remains hopeful about the prospects for the olive oil sector in Palestine, in part because of the vibrancy of the co-ops themselves.  Co-ops are one of the very few institutions that bring people together across political lines, as olive farmers with diverse political views unite to produce and market their olive oil.  For me, it’s not really about the products at all; rather, the true impact lies in the vision of the PARC employees and farmers I met who want to build a robust, independent, peaceful Palestinian society that can sustain its hills of olive trees for hundreds more years to come.

10 Tips For A Successful School Fundraiser

Ready to get started right away?

Visit our Fundraising Page >>

 

1. Think ahead and start your school fundraiser early. The earlier you start, the more money you can raise! Start planning your fall fundraiser in the summer and lay the groundwork for a smooth back-to-school season. Start thinking about your spring fundraiser after the new year so everyone is ready to go when the spring energy hits.

2. Build a good team. An effective team consists of folks that bring different skills to the table. Look for the:

  •  People Person. Find someone who is great at sending out short, friendly reminders to the parent community throughout the fundraiser and rallying support.
  • Bean Counter. Find someone who is good at counting and keeping track of how the money is coming in.
  • Task Master. It’s important to have someone who can keep track of fundraising milestones. This person can be in charge of deadlines and keeping team members and the community on schedule.

3. Set clear goals for the money you raise.  What are you raising money for, and how much do you need? Clear goals will keep everyone motivated, focused and on track. And don’t forget to heavily promote your goal (new sports uniforms, a band trip, art supplies, etc.). It’s a huge incentive for the community to visualize what the students will get.

4. Pace yourself. Don’t try to do everything at once. Make up a clear and realistic timeline for the school fundraiser and a reasonable task list for volunteers. Then, stick to it, and don’t forget to make time to relax!

5. Keep everyone informed.  Clear communication keeps things moving and helps everyone avoid surprises. Give parents advance notice so they are expecting the fundraiser, remind students periodically before their orders are due, and give teachers specific instructions for collecting and accounting for orders.

6. Get kids involved.  Our Classroom Activities will bring Fair Trade to life for your students. Coach them on talking points and conversation starters to help them introduce their cause to potential customers. You can also provide incentives like goodie bags or a pizza party for top-selling students or classrooms. School fundraising can be a great social skill-builder and a huge school spirit booster!

7. Relate the fundraiser to your values. Part of the reason you chose Equal Exchange is because of our mission. Share it with your community! There’s something for everyone to learn and appreciate about the values of Fair Trade and its impact on communities around the world. This is a valuable moment to demonstrate how you can make a difference near and far and work toward goals that benefit our global community.

8. Expand your reach. You can go beyond your own school community to gather support for your fundraiser. Most people will be delighted to help your school and receive amazing products in return. Take catalogs to your workplace, congregation, book club, or community events.

9. Don’t forget to say “thank you.” Let your volunteers know you appreciate them with thank you cards from the kids or a luncheon at the end of the fundraiser. And thank your community supporters, too – thank you notes or community announcements can go a long way toward boosting spirit and encouraging folks to participate again next time.

10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice. School fundraising can be easy and fun with the right approach and tools. If you have questions or need guidance, please don’t hesitate to call our Fundraising Expert Hotline: 508-427-5214. We’re here to assist you with the fundraising process so you can reach your goals. You can do this!

Sign Up Now >>

Or learn more about Fair Trade School Fundraising.

Get Inspired: Four Ways To Host A Successful Fair Trade Holiday Bazaar

It’s Holiday Bazaar time! Make it unforgettable by offering Fair Trade foods and gifts that make a difference in communities around the world – from coffee and chocolate to handmade crafts and jewelry. We have everything you need to get started and keeping going strong. For now, here’s some inspiration to get you thinking about your amazing Fair Trade holiday sale.

1.    Your sale table is the star. Make it shine! Use a colorful tablecloth to make it festive and eye-catching. Organize products neatly and use display racks to help create space and make it easier for customers to browse. Display table signs and educational materials to draw people in and generate interest in what you’re offering.

2.    It’s all about the samples. Everybody loves the chance to try something delicious, and odds are good that they’ll want to buy more once they have a taste! Some of our favorite tried-and-true snacks:

3. Get creative and make it unique. Decorations and personal touches make any gift or display so much more fun. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from others – this is a great way to get more folks involved and let their creativity shine.

  • Assemble bite-sized chocolate minis in gift bags using your favorite stickers, ribbons and bags or start with our Minis Packaging Kits and add your own special touches.
  • Decorate our plain paper tin-tie bags with markers, colored pencils, stickers and glitter glue, then fill them with beans from bulk coffee bags. This is a great activity for both kids and adults!
  • Design your own gift baskets with decorations from a craft store and fill them with Equal Exchange goodies. Perfect for a gift that’s good to go.

4. Share the mission. You know that Fair Trade is important for our global community, and now is a great time to tell your own community why it matters. The meaning behind the products you sell will really set your holiday bazaar apart from the rest – so don’t be afraid to talk about it!

These are just a few of the many tips, tricks and ideas we have for your successful Fair Trade holiday bazaar. For more inspiration and resources, order this year’s Holiday Bazaar Toolkit. Order yours today!
Enjoy the spirit of the season, and thank you for bringing the best of small farmers to your community.

Let’s Celebrate A Fair Trade Thanksgiving

At Equal Exchange, we’re celebrating a Fair Trade Thanksgiving by sharing the many things that make us feel grateful. From family and friends to the food on our tables and the farmers who grow it, there’s a lot to be thankful for!

Thanksgiving is a great time to celebrate our passion for fairly traded food and the relationships that make our products possible. We couldn’t do it without our longstanding partnerships with farmer co-ops or the incredible support of people like you.

While sharing tables full of delicious things from near and far, we’re celebrating cooperation, collaboration and the hard work behind it all. We’re thankful for the company of friends and family, for our co-op, for our customers and for the farmers we work with year after year. Whether you’ve done the planting, the harvesting, the cooking or just the eating, you are a valuable part of our authentic Fair Trade community. You’ll always have a seat at our table!

Happy Fair Trade Thanksgiving from everyone at Equal Exchange. Watch our video to hear some of the things we’re thankful for.

What are you thankful for? Tell us in the comments!

Need some recipe ideas for your Fair Trade Thanksgiving? Try these seasonal classics with our fairly traded ingredients. Better yet, select ingredients are on sale for a limited time!

Celebrate Fair Trade Month With Equal Exchange

October is Fair Trade Month, and there’s a lot to celebrate!

You already know that Fair Trade is important to farmers, communities and the planet, and that Equal Exchange’s partnerships help improve lives and land around the world. How will you showcase your support of better trade this month?

We have a few ideas to get you inspired and spreading the word about why Fair Trade matters.

  1. Kick off your celebration with fun recipes featuring fairly traded ingredients! Transform fall classics like brownies and muffins into creative Fair Trade treats for your friends, coworkers or classmates. Try using our baking cocoa, chocolate chips and dried fruits for a unique, delicious twist. Take a look at some of our favorite recipes, including Pumpkin Chocolate Muffins, Spiced Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies and Chocolate Covered Apples on a Stick!
  2. Brew an extra cup and share the Fair Trade experience. Try hosting a coffee hour or tea time featuring Equal Exchange. Brew up your favorite drink, whether it’s coffee from Ethiopia or tea from India, and share with friends at your home. You can talk about where it comes from, the importance of a healthy global community and how individuals can make it stronger. Bring your favorite blend of coffee to your office to share with coworkers, and let them know that supporting small farmers makes the world a better place.
  3. Hold a table sale for your congregation or community group, featuring all fairly traded foods and gifts. Fair Trade Month is a great opportunity to try a table sale for the first time, and even start generating interest for a Fair Trade holiday bazaar. Talk to your group about the positive impact their purchases make and start a conversation about living your values through everyday purchases. We can help you get started.
  4. Celebrate our producer partners by reading some of their inspirational stories. Many farmer co-ops have overcome serious obstacles, challenges and disadvantages. Every worker has strived to build successful businesses, stronger communities and better futures. Get to know their histories and day-to-day stories by checking out our blog.
    • Explore biodynamic and organic coffee farming innovations with Las Colinas and COMSA.
    • Meet two co-op managers from Peru.
    • Learn about the inspiring co-ops that grow our tea.
  5. Fair Trade Your Halloween! October also brings us this fun and spooky holiday, and with it comes lots and lots of chocolate. This year, make sure your treats are Fair Trade. Hand out fairly traded Chocolate Minis to your neighborhood ghosts and goblins, and talk about why supporting an ethical chocolate industry is important for kids around the world. Our Halloween Kits will help you get started with fun info cards and delicious bite-sized Minis. You can also spread the word with a digital Trick-or-Treat for a chance to win weekly prizes!

How will you celebrate Fair Trade month? Share your ideas in the comments!

Want more ideas and creative ways to bring Fair Trade to your community? Sign up for our newsletter and be the first to hear about new products, recipes, farmer stories and sales.

Trick or Treat? Why Fair Trade Halloween chocolate matters

Halloween is just around the corner, and that means it’s time for candy, trick-or-treating, costumes and more candy. Every year, Americans spend over a billion dollars on millions of pounds of Halloween chocolate — enough for every sweet tooth in the country and then some!

Where does all that chocolate come from? West Africa produces 70% of the world’s cacao (the main ingredient in chocolate,) and 40% of that comes from the Ivory Coast. Big corporations purchase most of this cacao from intermediaries to make the chocolate bars and candy that you see in stores worldwide.

View Image

The story behind that supply chain is a grim one: illegal child labor in West Africa is a problem that has plagued the chocolate industry for decades, with little improvement despite international pressure.

Without access to the market, many family-owned cacao farms rely on intermediaries to buy their crop, but these middlemen pay so little that many farmers struggle to get by. Out of desperation, some turn to illegal child labor and enlist kids from their extended families or communities to work excessively long, hazardous days in the field – to an abusive extreme far beyond normal chores or help.

Thousands of other children are trafficked from Mali and Burkina Faso and sold to cacao farmers in the Ivory Coast. These adolescents, desperate for work to help support their families, are deceived by traffickers who promise them good jobs. Once over the border, far from home and their own languages, these children are also forced to work long days of dangerous labor with no access to education, proper nutrition or health care. Most are unable to escape or seek help.

Despite this being a well-documented, ongoing crisis, we have seen little actual progress where it is needed most. And it is this cacao, harvested by exploited children, that often ends up in mainstream chocolate.

The Equal Exchange supply chain is different: we work with small farmer co-operatives in Peru, Panama, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. We have a close working relationship with our farmer partners and visit their co-ops often – we know them, and they know us. We’re invested in the well-being and success of the individuals, communities and small businesses behind our chocolate.

We’re working to promote a system that eliminates the desperation that causes some farmers to use unpaid laborers. In our system, there are no middlemen or brokers, and our producer partners receive above-market prices for their crops and other Fair Trade benefits. Additionally, nonprofit, independent certifying organizations monitor these cacao farms to verify that they follow fair labor standards. In every sweet square of our chocolate, there is integrity, honesty and pride.

You can help change the face of the chocolate industry and promote a system where all workers are paid a fair price. This year, give your neighbors a fairly traded treat: Halloween chocolate that supports fair wages, farmer-run businesses and sustainable agriculture. Celebrate the holiday by handing out chocolate that makes a statement in support of a healthy supply chain, and tell your neighbors why it matters to you.

It’s easy to add Fair Trade to any of your Halloween traditions. Our dark and milk Chocolate Minis are perfect for trick-or-treaters, and Halloween-themed baked goods taste even sweeter with fairly traded chocolate chips or baking cocoa. We’ve even collected some of our favorite recipes for you to try.

Take a break from scary stories and spread the word about fairly traded Halloween chocolate — better for farmers, communities and kids all over the world. This year, celebrate with us and Fair Trade your Halloween.

Drink A Better K-Cup With Equal Exchange Single Serve Coffee

The coffee world is always changing and evolving – that’s part of what makes it so exciting. Lately, there’s been a lot of buzz about Keurig* coffee makers and K-cup* single serve coffee, and everyone at Equal Exchange has been in on the conversation. We’ve been listening, too, to the concerns and preferences of our customers and doing everything we can to learn about this new corner of the coffee market. After many months of discussion and development, we have an exciting announcement: Equal Exchange is now offering three of our most popular blends in single serve cups for your Keurig. We’re proud to be able to offer you a single serve cup that’s truly different: environmentally friendly, good for farmers and absolutely delicious.

We’re no stranger to environmental issues, and we’ve been paying attention to the conversation about waste that surrounds typical, disposable K-cups. Because sustainability is important to us, and we know it’s important to you, we researched many manufacturing options to find the best, most environmentally friendly cup and packaging available. What we found is really exciting: a cup that is #5 recyclable plastic with a recyclable aluminum lid and an 88% compostable filter. This is a big step forward from most cups on the market, and we intend to follow the latest developments in single serve packaging in order to bring you the best.

Better still, this new product line is exciting for our farmer partners, who will directly benefit from more of their organic, Fair Trade coffee reaching the market. We’re excited to bring 100% organic, small farmer coffee to the millions of people who already choose single serve coffee every day. Small-scale farmers need your support and the support of the marketplace, and it’s beneficial for our partners to be included in this new coffee territory. The more certified organic, Fair Trade coffee that we can buy from our partners, the more they can grow their communities, strengthen their farms and support their families – it’s a real difference!

And of course, our quality control team (and our body of coffee-loving worker-owners) is devoted to great-tasting, superior quality coffee. We all have our favorite brew method, and know that the excellence of a good pour-over or French press is, of course, incomparable! But for convenience and versatility cup-by-cup (which we know many of you want) the single serve cup is the frontrunner. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice taste for convenience; that’s why we’ve worked hard to merge these two worlds, using a proprietary grind ratio and selecting the most popular blends to give you the best tasting K-cup. The end result? A single serve cup that we have tested, tasted and loved. Finally, you can have the exceptional taste and quality you expect from Equal Exchange, in a way that works for you and your Keurig.

We know that many of you already brew K-cups or know someone who does, so why not enjoy a better cup? Bring Equal Exchange coffee to your office, congregation, school, home or anywhere Keurig-style machines are found. Drink up some organic, small farmer-grown coffee and savor the taste of your favorite blend. Toss the cup and lid in your recycling bin, add the grounds and filter to the compost for your garden, and then let us know what you think!

To learn more about this exciting new addition to our line of coffees, check out our single serve coffee main page.

If you have a Keurig-style brewer and would prefer a reusable brew cup, buy our favorite one here!

*Equal Exchange is not affiliated with KEURIG, Inc. “KEURIG®” and “K-CUP®” are registered trademarks of KEURIG, Inc. Not compatible with KEURIG® VUE® or 2.0 Brewing systems

Chocolate-Covered Apples On A Stick

Ingredients

Directions

Wash and dry apple. Stick a candy-apple type stick (or something similar) into the stem. Make sure it is stable.

Melt chocolate and oil in a bowl for 60 seconds, stirring every twenty seconds, until fully melted. The chocolate and oil should be evenly combined and the texture should be smooth. If the chocolate seems dry or clumpy, add a bit more oil- though there will be tiny caramel and sea salt crystals in the chocolate.

Place the apple in the bowl with melted chocolate. Using a spoon, cover the apple in chocolate and smooth out as best you can. Take apple out of bowl and make sure it is evenly coated.

Set apple down on wax paper or a plate, with the stick pointing up. Refrigerate for at least half of an hour.

Eat soon after refrigeration.

Multiply the ingredients for desired quantity.

Frighteningly Scrumptious Pumpkin Chocolate Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 2/3 cups flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 15oz pureed pumpkin
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup butter – melted
  • 1 cup Equal Exchange Organic Chocolate Chips 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease muffin pan(s) or line with muffin papers. Mix flour, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, break eggs and add pumpkin and butter. Stir rapidly until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour over dry ingredients and fold in. Do not over mix. Scoop into pan and bake 20-25 minutes. They should still seem a little underdone when removed from the oven – test with a toothpick.