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New Year, New Paradigm

By: Eddie Long

The New Year always brings new resolutions and fresh starts! Too often our well-intentioned resolutions fall by the wayside before February. So instead of proposing a resolution, I’d like to propose a new paradigm for the new year. A new way of thinking…a new way of seeing, because when we change our mindset and perspective our actions like to follow.

In my previous articles I’ve shared my personal process and journey into the world of Fair Trade. I’ve talked about chocolate and coffee, and the issues that those industries contain. But what I’ve realized along the way is that my paradigm about how I buy things is what slowly began to shift. It shifted from thinking about BRANDS or SALES, to thinking about PEOPLE. You see, the “Mad Men” of old set into motion a system that buys and sells brands. Labels let consumers know what to expect. Brands give you trusted quality…or at least consistency. You know exactly what to expect when you unwrap a Kit Kat or a bag of Doritos or Dixie Crystals Sugar. Nikes are Nikes, Folgers is Folgers. The thing the brand conceals are the PEOPLE that came together to make it happen. The closest thing the consumer comes to thinking of a person is a Keebler Elf, Lebron James. If the brand fails to catch our attention, the second place we were taught to look is the SALE. The “off brand.” Buy one get one free. 25% OFF! Same great taste as the major brand. The coupon! We think “Walmart is worth over $400 Billion, I should take advantage of those sales!”

Here’s the paradigm shift..are you ready? An elf didn’t make your cookie, instead it was most likely a child using dangerous tools on a farm, harvesting cocoa. Walmart can sell so cheap because they leverage their buying power to pay less to brands, who in turn pay less to workers and farmers. So the paradigm we were taught is broken. Instead mine became “How does this product impact PEOPLE.” This shifted my focus towards the ingredients on the label instead of the flashy front. Does the label tell a story about the farmers? Is there a certification that provides a level of accountability that farmers are treated fairly and the environment isn’t destroyed. The truth is, everything you buy is the result of a great collaboration of PEOPLE. Yes this paradigm shift will cost you time and effort. Google searches. Deep dives on company websites. Maybe even writing an email or two. Yes this paradigm shift might cost you a little more money. But it will make you feel good about buying again. Guilty pleasures become less guilty. You will feel connected to something bigger. And in my opinion, that’s worth it!


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