By Naomi Caufield, Fair Trade Edmonton Member
As part of our effort at Fair Trade Edmonton to support local businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Kalmanovitch, the founder and owner of Earth’s General Store.
After giving a series of environmental workshops, Michael realized that there was no central store where people could go to buy products that are environmentally conscious. This led to him opening Earth’s General Store in 1991 as an environmentally friendly store, which then expanded to include food products in 2010. He has an incredible knowledge base and evident passion for sustainable living.
How does your store support Fairtrade?
Besides Earth’s General Store carrying a variety of Fairtrade certified products, I make a point to educate others about the importance of Fairtrade and how to pick products that you can be sure are more environmentally conscious.
During our interview, Michael showed me a few different products straight from the store’s shelves that had different certification logos. He explained how carrying these products makes it easier for customers to quickly assess a product, which makes buying Fairtrade, vegan and other such products much more convenient.
Why do you think supporting Fairtrade is important?
Companies can be very misleading when it comes to promoting products as environmentally conscious. For example, a local business could still underpay staff and buy raw ingredients from exploited farmers. However, when buying Fairtrade certified products, I can be certain that workers at all levels of the supply chain were fairly compensated. I especially support the Fairtrade Minimum Price, as it guarantees that the costs of producing goods sustainably will always be covered, but that workers will also be able to benefit when the prices increase above world commodity price.
Are there any current issues you see happening with Covid-19 and Fairtrade?
Although the supply chain hasn’t been severely affected yet, I see a more long-term impact of Covid-19 on Fairtrade. Natural disasters cause more of an immediate impact to plantations and farmers, whereas the pandemic will affect all levels of Fairtrade for decades. That being said, an outbreak on a non-FairTrade plantation may be detrimental to the workers they can hire replacement workers because of the scarcity of employment in many coffee growing areas. Whereas, most Fairtrade coffee production comes from small family run operations in fairly remote areas. The virus will not move through the small holding operations as it does in a plantation setting. That being said the owners are the workers and if they get sick – production, and the income it represents, is lost.
Any call to action for the community?
Make sure that you educate yourself and always think critically! Question if what you are buying is really more environmentally conscious then a generic brand or if it is misleading advertising. For example, when Cadbury came out with a special chocolate line, they made no effort to reconcile with communities that they had previously exploited and this was really more of a “token fair trade” item. Pay attention to certification logos and make sure you are shopping for a better world!
Written by: Naomi Caufield, Interview with: Michael Kalmanovitch