In early 2004, aspiring to make fair trade craft items as mainstream as organic produce, Priya Haji and Siddharth Sanghvi launched A World of Good (www.world-of-good.com), a Berkeley, California, company that imports goods from artisan groups, cooperatives, and nonprofit organizations in developing nations. Now, their yoga bags, straps, jewelry, and housewares line the shelves of yoga studios, spas, and grocery stores such as Whole Foods.
Yoga Journal: What makes a product fair trade?
Siddharth Sanghvi: There's a set of criteria. First, the artists must be paid a wage they can live on. Second, the trader must commit to maintaining long-term relationships with the artists so that the artists have a sustainable income. Then there are the environmental conditions—the items must be produced using local, sustainable resources and avoiding chemicals and harmful processes. And in a lot of cases, fair trade avoids child labor. But understand that in many of these artisan groups, the whole family makes the art, so you can't say there is no child labor.
YJ: What can we do to support fair trade practices?
SS: Express your opinion. Ask if the bananas in your grocery store are fair trade. If customers keep asking, the shop will begin to carry fair trade bananas.
Priya Haji: The more people buy free trade products, the more bigger companies will take notice and follow suit. That's what happened with coffee—Starbucks saw the success of it and they added certain fair trade lines. And if a big company like Starbucks starts buying even one percent of their coffee as free trade, it changes the lives of many farmers. And that's how change happens.
YJ: Do you have a regular yoga or spiritual practice?
SS: I grew up in Bombay doing yoga. To me, yoga is a way of life—it's about living simply and consciously. And in that respect, it ties in with buying responsibly. As you minimize your negative impact [socially], you minimize your impact on the environment.
PH: To me, spirituality is about a higher power or energy connecting all of us. I think less about minimizing our negative impact, and more about maximizing our positive impact through the little things we do every day to contribute to the energy that ties us together.