Cupcakes Can Change The World

Yes, you read the title correctly. Cupcakes can change the world, but that requires two important components, which I will get to later. Today, May 13, 2017, is World Fair Trade Day, a day in which agents for change from around the world join together to promote and mark their commitment to fair trade. This is a topic that we at Free To Run visit periodically, as the power of consumer purchasing has been proven capable of creating change. Socially conscious, or ethical, consumerism is a concept that sees consumers making choices to support positive values, from animal rights, to the environment, to human trafficking. Read more of this post

Fall is for Fair Trade

Here in the Midwest of the United States, we are witnessing the dramatic transition of seasons, with leaves turning colors and cooler temperatures. October means the arrival of Fall, but it is also Fair Trade Month. It is an appropriate time for us to espouse the benefits of fair trade shopping, but there are compelling reasons to permanently change your shopping habits by choosing fair trade items when they are available. Simply put, buying fair trade helps to ensure that workers are receiving fair wages, are employed in safe and humane working conditions, and are not being exploited. Companies have been taking steps to improve their supply chains (possibly due to transparency regulations, consumer demand, and/or good corporate citizenship), but many popular products continue to be plagued by slave or child labor in their supply chains. As consumer become more socially conscious, there are numerous resources available about fair trade products. In this article, we want to share a few of our favorite resources and fair trade companies.

A good starting point for a consumer looking to include more fair trade goods in their life is After spending a few minutes taking a survey, you will find out how many slaves work for you (based on your current lifestyle.) Although it’s not terribly comprehensive (that would require an exhaustive inventory of your purchases), it does provide a sobering look at the problem of modern day slavery and how your everyday purchases are connected.

Consumer goods, such as coffee and chocolate, both of which were notorious for slave labor at the bottom of the supply chain, are becoming more likely to have fair trade options. This article by UNICEF provides an additional explanation of fair trade, and includes the fair trade associations that certify products. So when you are in the grocery store, look for one of the association logos on the product packaging and you’ll know that your purchase is helping to combat human trafficking.

Deciding to change your shopping habits to be a better global citizen and social justice advocate is the first step. Admittedly, when you start finding out that some of your favorite products don’t have the best supply chains, it becomes more difficult to make those adjustments. It’s a process and a journey. Start small and try out some fair trade products, without trying to completely overhaul everything you purchase. We will leave you with a few of our favorite fair trade companies.

Freeset – this social enterprise based in India employs sex trafficking survivors in Kolkata. Products include tees, bags, and scarves. We buy our race shirts from Freeset.

Serrv – here you can shop for apparel, home goods and decor, and food items from artisans and farmers in 25 countries.

Ten Thousand Villages – much like Serrv, they carry a wide range of different fair trade goods.

MadeFair – an online retailer of ethical, sustainable and Certified Fair Trade apparel. Our new ambassador, Annabelle, will soon feature some of their items.

Citizen and Darling – an ethical clothing brand that fights human trafficking. We love their Freedom Fighter tees!

And finally, located right in our hometown of Troy, Ohio, Pachamama Market carries a variety of fair trade items, such as home decor, jewelry, clothing, and coffee and chocolate. If you’re in the Troy or Dayton vicinity, make sure you visit them!

Hopefully this post is informative, and will help you get on the path to becoming a socially conscious consumer, not just in October, but year round.


Finding Slave-Free Products without a Fair Trade logo

Last month we explored Fair Trade products and why they bring us closer to ending slavery. Certified Fair Trade items are produced in a slave-free, human rights-respecting environment and with an eco-friendly conscious. Does that mean all non-certified products are tainted with labor abuses and environmental degradation? Fortunately, no.

Many companies function under high & tight code of conduct standards that ensure each step of the manufacturing process respects both human rights and the environment. Unless boasting a Free Trade logo, it can be difficult to identify such products on shelves and among aisles. Thankfully, though, organizations are providing consumers with reliable information about companies’ supply chain and whether or not human trafficking is present.

The most well-known and perhaps densely-compiled site is Free2Work, which is a project of Not For Sale. Through self-reported data and public information, Free2Work ranks companies according to the absence of forced and child labor in their supply chains. You can find whose manufacturing practices are a-ok and whose are not in particular industries including Apparel, Coffee, Sports Equipment, Shoes, Chocolate, Electronics, Jewelry and more.
Companies are “graded” in four different categories. For a busy consumer who quickly wants to know which companies have great practices and which do not, a simple scroll through the listings will show each company and its color-coded grade.

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The ratings are based on a company’s performance related to workers’ rights, monitoring, policies and transparency. Each company is given a score card; we can, in detail, compare why it’s a better choice to shop at H&M rather than Forever 21.

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It was through Free2Work that I learned to what extent my sponsor, Brooks, addresses labor rights. I am overwhelmingly proud to represent a company that values workers’ rights – in the supply chain’s every step! To be supported by a brand that offers high-quality products is wonderful. To be supported by a brand that offers high-quality products AND respects its suppliers, workers and environment, now that’s striking gold.

imageBrooks is not the sole running apparel company to score well; Champion, Adidas, Reebok, Nike, and New Balance received B- or better. I hope that instills pride in the entire running community! Major running brands are among those leading the fight against human trafficking.

Explore Free2Work and learn which of your favorite companies are also raising a hand against slavery.  You may be surprised by how many brands are doing good in their industries. Below are links to additional resources related to slave-free brands.

Fair Trade: What is it? And why should we care?

Recap: Over 28 million people are enslaved. Modern-day slavery ranges from forced labor to child labor to domestic servitude to sex trafficking to bonded labor. And it permeates the world’s every corner, from our hometowns to faraway Lebanese cities. Slavery is not dead.

Ok, so how can I help?

Uncompromising schedules often times stalls us from quickly answering this question. Mine did, at least. Light on social issues and human rights movements and simply global news is at our fingertips after an effortless “scroll down to refresh”. Accessing information is easy – digesting and converting it into action is not, especially when we have a finite amount of energy and an infinite amount of outlets in which to partition it. It’s an inverse buffet experience. Rather than having endless items that must fit into one fist-sized stomach, we’re working with a fist-sized amount of energy that can be consumed by a limitless number of hungry outlets. And with the hungriest of all being fed first: work, the kiddo’s activities, home projects, practices, hobbies, volunteering, community events, chill time to maintain one’s sanity, we certainly can’t commit more of Us to entities on our peripheral, can we?
We can by making small adjustments in the areas to which energy is already committed.


I will help end slavery by adjusting how I shop.

I found this to be a perfect opportunity to “feed” two outlets – weekly grocery shopping & slavery activism – with one spoonful of energy. It’s an easy way to transform a frequent activity into a rewarding contribution. And it remedies a guilty feeling of not helping to ameliorate a vast and deadly issue. As consumers, we can contribute to the end of slavery by buying Fair Trade and supporting companies with commendable labor practices. With a little conscious effort and a slight move to the right or left of that bag of Hershey’s kisses, we can kick slavery’s butt with each shopping trip.


First, what is Fair Trade and how does buying Fair Trade bring us closer to Slavery’s end?
In its simplest form, Fair Trade is a social movement that is powered by many independent organizations committed to establishing fair, humane and equal trading partnerships. Although there is no single Fair Trade authority, many organizations operate with this definition:

Fair Trade is a “trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency, and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, disadvantaged producers and workers—especially in the South” (FINE, 1998).

Fair Trade products include much more than just coffee and chocolate. Wine, linens, lotion, soccer balls are also a handful of products we can buy Fair Trade. Curious to discover more? Check out this list here:
Because there is no single Fair Trade authority, there is no one Fair Trade logo.

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Each logo represents a different Fair Trade organization with a different set of criteria for determining which products are and are not Fair Trade certified. Interested in learning about Fair Trade USA’s criteria?  Or World Fair Trade Organization’s principles? And Fair Trade International’s standards? (To name a few).

Regardless of a package’s logo, when we buy Fair Trade, we are supporting producers that obey labor laws, ensure safe, comfortable working conditions and fairly pay employees. When we buy Fair Trade, we are strengthening equal trade partnerships. When we buy Fair Trade, we are protecting the environment from degradation. When we buy Fair Trade, we are NOT supporting companies that mistreat and abuse (read: enslave) workers. Bam.


Fortunately Fair Trade products are becoming more and more ubiquitous. I choose to buy Fair Trade when purchasing kitchen staples (like rice, tea, chocolate, cocoa, sugar) and bath essentials such as soap and lotion.  Even if my budget doesn’t allow for or the local store doesn’t carry all Fair Trade options, I still feel great about the choices and impact I CAN make.

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Every time I am back home, I’ll make a handful of trips to Winans in downtown Troy. The owners, Joe and Laurie, work directly with farmers to ensure their beans are coming from safe and fair sources. A plug for my favorites: a large cup of Maine Blueberry coffee & a bag of dark chocolate espresso beans.

It was easy to call out Hershey’s earlier in this post because the chocolate  (and coffee) industry has taken hot heat in recent media.  If you are interested in why companies like Hershey’s are often and strongly criticized, read more here.  Additionally, if you would like to see how your favorite chocolate companies stack up in the Fair Trade world, check out this detailed list.

Combatting slavery through consumerism is not limited to buying only certified Fair Trade products. Companies are tightening, revising and raising their code of conduct standards; some of our favorite items are produced sans slavery, but do not wear a slave-free logo.  How can we identify these products, as well as their culpable counterparts?  That’s what we’ll explore next month.

Until then, I challenge you to discover opportunities in your schedules that allow for slight modification and powerful amelioration of social issues such as human trafficking and slavery.  It can be done!