Category Archives: Poverty

How it Works: Fair Trade

“Fair trade” seems to be all the rage lately, but if you are like me, that doesn’t necessarily mean a full understanding of the term.

I first became acquainted with fair trade through our church, which sold a few fair trade items once a month when we first joined.  Since this was B.C. (Before Children), I didn’t see a need for coffee.  Plus, the goods seemed grossly overpriced, so I didn’t pay much attention and certainly never bothered to buy anything.

As seems to be my trend, fast forward a few years and not only do I have a huge appreciation for the dark caffeinated beverage (splash of milk and dash of coconut oil in mine, please!), but I also have become more interested in the idea of fair trade.

So I decided to do a little research.

According to the simple definition found at Lutheran World Relief, “fair trade” is just “a trading partnership that seeks greater equity in international trade.”

Seems “fair”-ly simple (sorry, couldn’t resist!).  Help farmers earn a living wage, help strengthen communities (fair trade policies ensure that labor laws are more closely adhered to, and provide an opportunity for farmers to invest in their communities), and help the environment (through sustainable practices encouraged by fair trade), all while I get my daily dose of caffeine?

Yes please.

And did you know that the term fair trade applies to more than just coffee?  It can apply to everything from chocolate to tea, and–get this!–eco-palms for Palm Sunday services.  Impressive!

I love my coffee, but I also love to put my values in action, and fair trade is a good way to do that.  It may be more expensive, but considering all that it benefits, it seems like a relatively simple way to do my part.

Quitting Food Waste

I read a lot, and a lot of that lately has been about how to save money and save the environment. One thing I don’t remember being expressly talked about (but always there, somewhere) is the idea of not wasting food.

So I did a little research and found out:

– 1/3 of all food produced each year in the world is not consumed, but wasted

– Here in the United States, food waste is the 2nd largest category of landfill waste

– The food waste in the US works out to average 20 pounds per person, per month*

food waste ad on dump truckI’ve never calculated it, but I would guess that I’m around average in the amount of food I waste (if not worse). That disgusts me. I’m wasting my money, and I’m wasting food that others’ could eat.

Then, I throw it in dumpster where it will rot in a landfill that will scar the landscape and be sealed off, so those nutrients will not be able to nourish anyone else for a very long time.

I’m done with that.

I’m going to follow Sharon Astyk’s lead (author of Depletion and Abundance) and try better the American average by 90%. So starting now, I’m going to work towards wasting less than 2 pounds of food a month. I’d love to get to that point by the end of 2015.

What are my strategies for wasting less? (this is the section where my mom will shake her head, because I have always been an eat-very-little-of-my-plate-when-eating-out, leftover-hating girl)

1. Buy only what I know I’ll eat/use. My Buy Little Month helped me to be more intentional in what I buy. I want to continue that intentionality.

2. Use what is close to spoiling first. This will mean going outside o my comfort zone a little, because I have always been a strict follower of sell-by dates. I obviously don’t want to make myself (or anyone else) sick, but a little investigation will help me figure out what I can safely use. Recently, I researched eggs and now know how to read the carton as well as how to determine if an egg has gone bad (without having to crack it).

3. Don’t make more than I’ll eat. Living alone, I’ve gotten pretty good with this, but there’s always room for improvement.

4. When eating out, don’t order more than I’ll eat. Did I mention that I don’t like leftovers? I’ve grown to figure out how to eat my own leftovers, but I still don’t like restaurant leftovers.  I need to find smaller meals or items à la carte to order. Thankfully, I don’t eat out much.

Hopefully at some point, I’ll start composting, too, but I’m not ready to attract that kind of bug life to my apartment or balcony.

Will you join me in quitting food waste?

Photo by North Devon Council

*The stats found above can be found here

Interesting Financial Interactives

calculatorI have always been the person who enjoys taking those silly little quizzes–“Does He Like You?”, “What Kind of Mother are You?”, and the like.  Interacting on the internet AND getting answers to my questions?  What a concept!

So, when I stumbled upon these interesting interactives, I knew I’d be sharing them with you.  Each one involves money in some way, and most impart valuable insight or tips for how to be better stewards of the gift of wealth.  Plus, since math is not my forte, I like being able to just plug in numbers and get answers, as opposed to using an actual calculator–or, heaven forbid, a pencil and paper!

Income Upshot

Marketplace.org is one of my regular websites, and this interactive has been really informative.  The premise is more entertainment that anything else:  type in your zip code and your annual income to see how you compare to others in your zip code.  It was enlightening to learn where we fall on the spectrum, as well as discovering such random tidbits as what kind of car those in our income bracket purchase (23% choose small cars like ours).

The Secret Life of a Food Stamp

It is way too easy for me to want to scream, “Let me fix your finances for you!” to someone who indicates they are struggling financially.  While I maintain that there is always something that can be cut from your budget, all too often I forget that, for some, the only things left that can be cut are necessities like food and shelter.  This interactive (also at marketplace.org) has you try to make do with budgets based on geography, family size, and national averages.  It’s a lot tougher than you think, and is a sobering reminder to consider all the facts before passing judgement.

College Cost Calculator

Nothing like considering the staggering costs of sending our kids to college in a couple of decades to knock me off my high horse!  We started saving for our kids’ education from the get-go…but calculators like this not only help to figure out a rough idea of what we should prepare to spend, but also serve as an important reminder that saving for big stuff is essential.

Retirement Calculator

This retirement calculator is another great reminder of the importance of saving.  Retirement may seem like a long way off, but it’s never too soon to save!

Tithing Calculator

Regardless of your views on tithing to a religious institution or giving in general, I think most of us can agree that it is important to use our gifts to be a blessing to others.  This handy little calculator lets you not only see what tithing (or giving 10% of your income) would look like, but also what percentage of your income you are currently giving.

What handy (or amusing) financial interactives have you come across?

National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, it is a great time to be reminded of how fortunate
many of us are:  many of us can count good health among our blessings, many among us have plenty of food in our pantry and roofs over our heads, and many can even afford the occasional splurge or two.

For many in our midst, that is not the case.  According to Feeding America, an alarming number of our neighbors live in poverty or experience food insecurity.

  • In 2013 alone, nearly 20% of children under age 18 lived in poverty.
  • Over 15 million children live in food insecure households.
  • The numbers are not much better for seniors:  9.5% live in poverty.

These numbers provide only a glimpse into the reality that too many people face on a regular basis.  Homelessness is also an increasing issue facing many in our nation; as the National Coalition for the Homeless points out, “Recent studies suggest that United States generates homelessness at a much higher rate than previously thought.”

It can be easy to be disheartened by such staggering statistics, but it is important to focus on what can be done.  When I was in college, I had the opportunity to take a community leadership course as an elective.  The biggest takeaway for me was the sentiment, “But why (is this the case/does this happen)?”

With this question in mind, I think it is helpful to consider the root causes of poverty and homelessness.  Why are people homeless?  Why are people hungry?  Taking major issues and addressing their causes in bite sizes can make a bigger positive impact and is less overwhelming.

Certainly major events and issues like foreclosure, poverty and mental illness play a role in homelessness.  Poverty and economic hardship may also play into issues of hunger.

So what can we do?

National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week takes place November 15-23.  We urge you to check out events that are taking place nationwide.  Even if it is not in your power to give financially, you can help to educate and bring awareness to those in need.  Hunger and Homelessness is not a problem unique to the United States; it is a worldwide pandemic.

This Thanksgiving, we at Striving Stewardess urge you to consider giving the gifts you have to be a blessing to others.  This is a key component of stewardship.