Meet the Retailer: Fair Trade Winds

From selling fair trade coffee and tea at their local church to running a network of four retail shops across the US, the Culler family's passion for fair trade knows no bounds.

Their store, Fair Trade Winds, offers ethical alternatives to common household goods, gifts, and apparel. They stock a vast range of North American brands, all verified by the Fair Trade Federation – including Laundromat.

We caught up with Fair Trade Winds’ Emily Lynn to discuss all things ethical consumerism.

How did Fair Trade Winds first get started?

Fair Trade Winds was born over 10 years ago, but the seed was planted much earlier than that. My aunt and uncle were familiar with fair trade, and sold and purchased fair trade coffee, tea, and chocolate at their church for many years. But they knew there must be something more, and their curiosity led them to the find the Fair Trade Federation of North America (this is also how we connected with Laundromat!)

They began selling fair trade products at local fairs and at churches in their community, and then decided to open a small seasonal store in Maine. Since then, Fair Trade Winds has grown to four stores across the country.

Everything remains rooted in family. Members of our family help to manage each store, and we all participate in decision-making.

Why are you and your family so passionate about fair trade?

I have always considered myself a responsible global citizen; my friends will tell you I was a big fan of shopping at thrift stores and encouraged recycling and re-use. Through my church, I knew about fair trade chocolate, coffee, and tea, and thanks to my aunt and uncle, I was amazed at all of the other fair trade products available for everyday life.

Simply by changing your mindset and buying differently, you can make tremendous change in the world and empower so many; especially women. The United Nations states that for every dollar a woman makes, between 80-90 cents goes back to her family and community, as opposed to 30-40 cents by men.

What are the key benefits to buying Fair Trade over a conventional brand?

When you buy something that is fair trade, you are providing opportunity: In most communities where artisans live, literacy rates are low. Many live below the poverty line and don’t have access to consistent electricity or safe drinking water. But they deserve opportunity, just like you and me.

Beyond providing fair wages to farmers and artisans for their work, fair trade enterprises invest in projects that the whole community can benefit from, like water filtration systems, education and training, health insurance, and ensuring children attend school.

As a consumer, buying Fair Trade Certified and fair trade verified products is a thoughtful, compassionate choice. For example, purchasing fair trade clothing is a great way to wear your values – it is designed to last from season to season, both in quality and in style.

Do you think Fair Trade is becoming more popular in the US?

I think it is! More conventional brands are incorporating fair trade pieces into their collections, and they see the value of ethical sourcing and the importance of investing in people.

Could you tell us about your Anti-Trafficking Sale events, and why you’re passionate about the issue of human trafficking?

If a group or organization at your school, work, place of worship, or in your community would like to host an anti-trafficking sale, we can put together a selection of products that directly support anti-trafficking organizations and mail it to you to sell. You keep 10% of the money you make. It’s a great, no-risk way to spread awareness and create a personal connection to trafficking.

We also host benefit shopping days at our stores, and often the organizations we feature are focused on eliminating trafficking. Human trafficking exists everywhere, but even more so in developing countries

There are many fair trade brands working hard to end trafficking by providing alternative work opportunities and holistic programs for those who have escaped it. There are many stories of hope, but there are so many more stories that need to be written. Our work is not yet done.

What do you love most about Laundromat?

We love that Laundromat really does offer something for everyone (we all have people on our list that are hard to shop for!). The handmade, yet classic and clean look combined with natural fibers is a win-win.

Our current favorite item is the Chase Earflap – it’s so fun to try on, no matter the size of your head! It will keep you warm and stylish, whether you’re going out for a walk in the woods or a winter night out on the town.