The Good Buy

Enjoy the spirit of holiday gift giving while making ethical choices. Head over to the Good Buy for great deals — and support UUSC’s work at the same time!

In Their Own Words: Good for Workers, Good for the Earth

UUSC just launched its revamped online store: the Good Buy! In the interview below, UUSC Marketing and Multimedia Specialist Eric Grignol highlights how the Good Buy can help you live out your values. Plus he shares his favorite picks from the new store! Check out the Good Buy online, sign up for its newsletter, and follow it on social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest).

UUSC is a human rights nonprofit — why does it have an online store?

UUSC has a store for two main reasons. The first is raising awareness of workers’ rights and environmental justice. Today’s store really grew out of our Choose Compassionate Consumption campaign, to help our members and supporters understand a little more about the consumer choices that they make and how they affect workers and the earth. The second main reason is that the store functions as a fundraiser for UUSC — all net proceeds of the purchases support UUSC’s human rights work.

Why is it called the Good Buy?

It’s a way to buy goods and to give back. It’s a way to do good with the purchases you make. If you care about workers’ rights, how a product is made, how those goods get to you, and who is impacted by them — all along the supply chain — then this store is for you. As consumers, we don’t want to ruin the earth or exploit workers. The Good Buy makes it easy to make good choices for the products we use on a daily basis, that we need for living.

How do you choose the products to offer in the store?

We work with a variety of vendors and go through a fairly intensive vetting process. We learn how the product was made, where it was made, and the conditions of the workers. Were they paid a living wage? Do they have good benefits? Are they unionized workers or cooperative owners? We look at how much of an impact it has on the environment.

Take this T-shirt for example; we look at the material it’s made of: Is it organic? Is it sustainably sourced material? What is the packaging? We recognize that not every product is perfect, but we really can say that the products that we offer are where environmental justice and economic justice meet. We don’t have to sell out one for the other. We don’t have to say that this is a green product and it’s good for the earth, but it was made on the backs of workers in sweatshops. We feature products that respect the environment and respect workers.

What are some of your favorite products right now?

My favorite section is the fair foods section. Since a lot of our supporters are really plugged into the ethical eating movement, I think that people will be pleasantly surprised to see how much we’ve expanded our food offerings. We’ve got small-batch locally sourced organic jams by the Jam Stand. We’ve got nuts, spices, oils — a lot of stuff that you can really stock your pantry with and use in your everyday cooking and that will help you on the path toward ethical eating if you’re not already there.

What does fair foods mean?

In UUSC’s Choose Compassionate Consumption initiative, there’s been a big focus on the people who handle, prepare, and grow our food. So when it comes to products, we’re looking at the full supply chain — the food chain, if you will. Are workers able to make a living? What are the conditions they are working under? And in terms of environmental impact, we’re looking at questions like: Are these foods full of chemicals? Genetically modified? Sprayed with tons of pesticides? We want to help people move away from big agribusiness to having a deeper — and cleaner — connection to our food sources.

But shouldn’t people be supporting the local businesses in their own hometowns?

I do want to make a point: we encourage people to go to their local farmers’ markets and to find out where their food comes from. We recognize that the Good Buy is not going to be your grocer, and we don’t want it to be. But we do want to offer people an opportunity to explore sustainable options, and we really want to highlight businesses that are doing things right. So I think It’s a both/and, not an either/or, situation. Some of these things you might be able to find locally, but we want to support producers that are doing things responsibly and in a way that’s guided by the values we share. It’s these businesses that really need our support — they’re in the greatest jeopardy of going away, and being replaced with Walmarts or big agribusiness, unless we actively support them.

What is most exciting to you about launching the Good Buy?

I think this new store is more user-friendly and welcoming to a wide audience that shares our values. It allows us to showcase in a new way the secret that some of our supporters already know: that UUSC is a destination for sustainable living products and a great place to buy gifts. It’s not buying goods just to buy goods — it’s buying things that you will use in the course of your life already and making sure that the versions you’re buying are good for the earth and good for workers.

We have a Good Buy blog that will give people a more in-depth look at the products we’re featuring, including recipes, producer profiles, videos, and ways to get involved beyond the purchases that you make.

On each product page, you’ll see a description of the product, what’s in it, and what makes it good — every product supports UUSC and its human rights work, but you’ll also see if something is all-natural, fair trade, made in the United States, and so forth.

How does ordering online from the Good Buy differ from ordering online from some big retailer?

Right now we handle all the order fulfillment in house at UUSC — so we’re intimately connected with the human rights programs and advocacy work that your purchases are supporting. Your purchases are sent with love! And we’re not contributing to the damaging working conditions that warehouses for many large online retailers are coming under fire for: repetitive motion injuries, long hours, unreliable shifts, low pay. So the supply chain we consider goes all the way to when they’re shipped out the door at UUSC.

Stories of Hope 2014: Don Mario Pérez

This story of Don Mario Pérez and Equal Exchange is presented as part of UUSC's Guest at Your Table program.

Don Mario Pérez is a farmer in Marcala, Honduras. Together with his wife, Joselinda Manueles, he grows organic coffee that you may serve at your local coffee hour thanks to a longstanding collaboration between Equal Exchange and UUSC. Equal Exchange is a worker-owned, fair-trade food company that UUSC collaborates with — particularly through the UUSC Coffee Project and UUSC’s Good Buy store — to support small farmers like Don Mario throughout the world.

Don Mario is a member of Café Orgánico Marcala (COMSA), a coffee-farm cooperative with more than 850 members and a particularly holistic approach to its work. As Equal Exchange puts it, COMSA’s “philosophy centers on living out and practicing their values in their work, community, and personal life.” Don Mario is passionate about continually learning and talks about “changing the chip” in your brain to open yourself up to new perspectives — “to observe, analyze, think, and invent!” he says. “Experience has taught us that change happens first in your mind and then in your home and on your farm.”

COMSA is a natural match for Equal Exchange, which works toward a more equitable, democratic, and sustainable world through fair trade and supporting cooperative work. As partners of Equal Exchange, COMSA members are compensated fairly for their products, which allows them to better meet their families' basic needs for food, education, and health care — and their long-term security. Plus, consumers are ensured that their coffee is grown sustainably in a way that benefits both workers and the environment. This is at the heart of why UUSC works with Equal Exchange to get coffee — and tea, chocolate, and more — from farmers like Don Mario into the hands of consumers eager for high-quality products that not only taste good but also do good.

Since 2001, UUSC has worked with Equal Exchange through the UUSC Coffee Project to involve more Unitarian Universalists in supporting small farmers by purchasing fair-trade treats in bulk. “Congregations participating through UUSC understand the importance of working with small farmers to change the way that global trade is conducted,” says Susan Sklar, Equal Exchange’s interfaith and community sales manager. “They have supported Equal Exchange’s mission to create alternative trade for over 13 years. Proportionately more UU congregations serve our coffee than any of our other denominational partners.” In 2013 alone, Unitarian Univeralists purchased 77,200 pounds of fairly traded products through the UUSC Coffee Project.

Those Coffee Project purchases benefit Equal Exchange farmer partners like Don Mario — and 20 cents per pound also goes to the UUSC Small Farmers Fund. Through this fund, UUSC works with partners like Muungano, a grassroots organization on the Kenya-Uganda border that provides livelihood support for youth at risk of forced labor and trafficking. Muungano trains youth in planting organic traditional crops, cooking, and building sustainable businesses, in addition to educating communities about nutrition and the potential risks of genetically modified foods.

There is a key concept that ties all of these programs and organizations together — empowering communities to enact sustainable solutions to the challenges they face. Carly Kadlec, an Equal Exchange coffee buyer, articulated it well after a June 2014 visit with Don Mario: “The members of COMSA know that farmers must believe in themselves and their ability to create solutions to challenges. They are inspiring other farmers to recognize their own strength and potential.”

Go deeper and take action:

Human Rights from Field to Fork awareness resources

Developed in collaboration with the Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA), Human Rights from Field to Fork is an effort to raise awareness and to mobilize UUSC members and supporters in support of the rights of workers in the food sector. As part of UUSC's wider Choose Compassionate Consumption campaign, this collection of tools will help you learn about the lives of food-chain workers and their struggle for justice.

Put on a workshop

The workshop helps guide you through the learning process in a group setting, and it makes use of all the other items listed here. Those items, like the handout, postcard, and action sheet can also be used separately, outside of workshops, for independent learning or awareness raising.

Get your congregation involved

Bring the message of Human Rights from Field to Fork to your congregation with this bulletin/order of service insert. Use it to promote your workshop, or to allow your congregation members to explore the issue on their own.

  • Editable Word version [DOC]
    This sample bulletin insert is provided as a Word document so you can customize it for your needs. If you are holding a workshop on justice for food workers, type in the date, place, and time to announce the event.
  • PDF version [PDF]
    Print and cut these double-sided 5½" x 8½" bulletin inserts.

UUSC has also created sample lesson plans for youth groups and religious education classes that educators can use to engage people in understanding their connection to compassionate consumption through the Human Rights from Field to Fork project.

More about food-chain workers and the food industry

Food is interconnected with fundamental economic, political, social, and cultural aspects of our society. Food is woven into our communities through gatherings of family and friends and is central to our spiritual celebrations and rituals. The way we eat reflects personal habits and choices, as well as collective societal ones.

With each bite we consume, we are connected to people near and far on whom we depend daily to plant, harvest, process, pack, transport, prepare, serve, and sell our food. Yet five out of eight of the worst-paying jobs in the United States are in the food system, and food workers face some of the most difficult and dangerous working conditions.

UUSC's Economic Justice Program promotes the rights of food workers in a number of ways, including working to improve the conditions of poultry-processing workers, raise the wages of restaurant workers, strengthen a pecan-processing cooperative run by African American women in Georgia, and engage UU congregations in fair trade.

If we explore in greater depth where our food comes from, we begin not only to uncover realities of the working conditions in which it is produced, but also to make connections to other issues such as food sovereignty, sustainable agriculture, climate change, and more. In 2008, delegates at the 2008 Unitarian Universalist General Assembly selected ethical eating as the 2008–2012 Congregational Study/Action Issue (CSAI) of the UUA.

In the United States alone, 20 million people work in the food system, which is built on the cheap or slave labor of mostly people of color and immigrants, who are among the lowest-income and most exploited workers. UUSC is collaborating with the Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA) to advance the rights of workers in the food system so they can work in dignity for a living wage and organize in defense of their labor rights.

Fair-Trade Products Order Form for Congregations

Support and promote fair trade by purchasing fair-trade products from Equal Exchange through the UUSC Coffee Project. For every pound of fairly traded products sold through the UUSC Coffee Project, Equal Exchange donates 20 cents to UUSC's Small Farmer Fund.

Purchase Coffee by Fax or Mail

Use this PDF form to fax or mail your order of fair-trade coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate, and other snacks. You can also purchase sugar, mugs, filters, and other supplies — and request free brochures, posters, table tents, and more. You'll find everything you need to promote fair trade in your congregation!

UUSC Fair Trade Project

fair-trade-graphics3The UUSC Fair Trade Project (formerly known as the Coffee Project) links congregations with small farmers through fair trade. This project is a partnership between UUSC and Equal Exchange, a worker-owned cooperative offering 100% fairly traded coffee, tea, chocolate, and other foods.

For every pound of Equal Exchange delicious fairly traded coffee, chocolate, and other products you buy, they donate 20 cents to UUSC’s Small Farmer Fund. In addition to supporting the farmer coops that supply Equal Exchange’s products, UUSC uses the Small Farmer Fund to build sustainable livelihoods and advance human rights of other cooperative groups, particularly the rights of women, youth, and indigenous people.

What is fair trade?

Fair trade ensures that farmers are paid a fair price for their goods. Through fair trade, farmers and their families stay on their land and care for the environment. Working in democratically-run cooperatives, small-scale farmers gain control of their own livelihoods and make strides together in organic agriculture and quality control. With the added income from fair trade, farmers invest in education and social services for their communities.

How to Participate

Buy Equal Exchange fair trade products for your home and as gifts at the Good Buy, UUSC’s online marketplace. Each purchase of Equal Exchange products count towards the 20 cent per pound donation to the Small Farmer Fund!

Educate and inspire your congregation around fair trade with these videos and presentations on fair trade by Equal Exchange.

Visit farmers on diverse learning experiences hosted by the UU College of Social Justice, including a week-long trip to Nicaragua.

Sell Equal Exchange products after worship and at events, raising funds for your group or school. Contact us for more information or signup here!

Learn More

Check out the Good Buy’s blog, and follow it for recent updates on fair trade!

Download the UUSC Fair Trade Project Brochure or request printed copies for distribution in your congregation.