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$90K Kanye West Sneakers–Good Enough to Eat?

   I’m still shaking my head over the recent news that someone paid a whopping $90,300  on EBay for a pair of Kanye West sneakers.

Because I’m involved with fair trade, the first thing that came to my mind (after “Get a life”) was how many people in impoverished countries $90,300 could feed.

Commonly referenced facts on world hunger indicate that 1.2 billion people live on less than $1 a day.  If you increased that to even $5 a day, which in most underdeveloped nations is middle-income,  that $90,300 would feed over 18,000 people for a day or 50 people for a year.

I know I’m not bringing up anything new.  When a Kardashian wedding costs multiple millions, someone paying $90K for one pair of sneakers pales by comparison.  So does the $2,000-$7,000 the shoes are selling for on EBay now.

A recent study by Cone Communications, a PR firm specializing in cause branding and corporate responsibility, shows that “an overwhelming 94 percent of consumers are likely to switch brands, about equal in price and quality, to one that supports a social issue.” So I can only assume that the other 6% are the ones who buy $2000 sneakers.

But that study also makes me wonder where those 94% are when it comes to supporting fair trade.  In conversations with random individuals over the last year or so, it’s clear that many people not only don’t buy fair trade, they don’t even know what it is.  If they do buy fair trade, it’s usually limited to commodities like coffee and chocolate.

It’s actually possible to furnish your closet and a major portion of your home with fair trade products. Clothing, jewelry, purses, linens, baskets, tableware, fabric, lamps, and yes, shoes (http://ssekodesigns.com, http://www.oliberte.com/story/)—are all available as fair trade products that are contemporary in design and beautifully handcrafted.

Prices for fair trade products are competitive with non-fair trade products of equal quality.  But instead of your money going towards big corporations and multiple levels of middlemen, it gets  funneled directly back to the individual artisans themselves.  Their fair trade work provides a way out of devastating poverty, where they literally are one of those “statistics” who live on less than $1 a day.

I know the 6% who’ll wait in line for days to buy the newest fad will probably never think about shopping ethically.  But how about if the 94% of us who claim to shop with a conscience start balancing the scale for others with everything we buy?

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