Saturday, July 18, 2009

It isn't always easy being green, or fair

Talk about the shoe being on the other foot. My partner and I started hunting for a dining room table, knowing only a few things: we want it to fit the space, we want it to match the room and our own sense of style, and we DON'T want it to be a result of clear-cutting forests. Turns out dealing with the last requiremenet is not as easy as it sounds.

First we tried Craig's List and while a great service, it is pretty hit or miss depending on who is selling what, when. Plus, what's with all the agency posting these days? If I want to buy from a company I go straight to the mall if the first place. Of course, we could check out antique shops for "recycled" furniture, but most of what I see there brings back memories of Thanksgiving with grandma. Plus, both Kris and I hate shopping so going from one place to another finding that secret treasure doesn't seem the best use of our time or fuel.

Being label conscious gals, we sought out Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified products. I frankly found that site a little confusing, but on the second visit I got my list of retailers so I could narrow down the hunt. Ah ha! One nearby retailer offered products, but once on the showroom floor I couldn't find products with a label. I knew that Macy's sold Rugmark (soon to be "Good Weave") certified products in the past so we also headed there. The salesperson liked my question about wood origins, but could only provide manufacturer information. A web search (how did we shop responsibly before the Internet!?!) yielded disappointment for the table we were eyeing.

Shifting into social media gear, I posted an inquiry on Facebook (I refuse to tweet, thank you very much) and got several ideas of local sources of furniture. Okay, so we do have to spend a day going from place to place...and not on bicycles. I also was introduced to the Sustainable Furnishings Council (SFC) as a source of info on responsible sourcing. Being slightly dsylexic, the FSC vs. SFC, confounded me for a moment. And then I heaved a heavy sigh realizing I had gotten into the thick of different standards for the same industry.

This saga is all to say: I had forgotten that when I extol Fair Traders to "buy the right thing," it ain't always as easy as it sounds. It takes patience, reliable sources of information, access to transportation, and the ability to make sense out of a myraid of claims. To those of you who do it for Fair Trade: thank you! To all of us: keep up the good work. The producers and the planet need this kind of dedication!

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