Fair Trade Shopping

After living in Ghana, a small developing nation in West Africa, for nearly a decade the factors supporting the necessity of “Fair Trade” are evident. Developing nations such as most in Africa, Asia, Central and South America where many hand-crafted items originate are starkly poor. Many of the artist who create a plethora of goods ranging from clothing, housewares, and accessories live on extremely low wages. Under the current modern business structure it is appropriate to obtain these goods for the lowest price possible for higher profit back in the West. However, given the fact that many of the producers do not have the educational background, business savvy, or bargaining power to demand higher wages most are offered low pay for their time and effort. Often, a producer’s pay is barely enough to provide adequate meals for one’s family.

Fair Trade is an attempt to reverse the process of exploitation within the global marketplace. Many producers in developing nations are unaware of their rights for fair and liveable wages. In developing nations, severe poverty has a profound effect on one’s outlook. Any employment, even one that is exploitative and unsustainable, is welcomed over the absence of any work to support oneself. Therefore, many people growing up in these communities feel powerless to complain about an employment opportunity. Yet, a function of Fair Trade requires buyers to educate producers about their rights to “fair pay”. This doesn’t open the gates for factory workers to demand salaries that can buy them the latest sports car or most expensive designer clothing. However, at the very least being able to purchase adequate nutritious food and basic over-the-counter medicine for a child with a minor illness should be a human right for everyone who works. Moreover, doesn’t it seem contradictory to purchase a product sold in the U.S. by an employee who is legally granted a minimum wage if the same product was initially produced by an underpaid exploited worker abroad?

Non-fair trade products have a lower currency price. Our nation has become accustomed to rock-bottom prices and extraordinary deals but at what price does this have on our concept of humanity? When cheaper products at your local Wal-Mart result in thousands of underpaid workers in a foreign land who do not earn enough to provide meals for their families, adequate medical care, and basic education for their dependents how can we assess the true cost of these purchases as inexpensive.

Shopping Fair Trade puts you in an active role in helping to mend the disparity between the developing world and our own. Paying workers in developing nations livable wages provides a more meaningful base for development as manufacturers and producers are able to provide basic necessities for the next generation. There is also a lasting impact of empowering Fair Trade producers in these communities to hold themselves and the products they make to higher standards which result in a better finished piece. If you’d like more information or have comments on the issue of Fair Trade please communicate them with our growing community.

Fast Food Nation Leaders Are Changing

No matter how small a community you might live in, there’s is a good chance that there is fast food establishment on almost every corner. Since Ray Kroc first started selling millions and now who knows how many hamburgers at McDonald’s, we American’s have been frequent patrons of drive through food sources. While it’s easy and relatively economical to pick up a quick lunch or dinner on the run, we all know eating at the fast food places is not our healthiest choice.

You probably remember the man who sued four fast food franchises a few years ago. He claimed that he gained a couple of hundred pounds in a year because he dined exclusively, for breakfast, lunch and dinner, at his favorite fast food vendors. Now, if you ask me, this guy is the poster child of America’s fast food nation syndrome. For him to gain that much weight, he must have eaten double portions of the worst choices they had to offer.

When it comes down to it, the simple fact that obesity is rampant, both in children and adults, is ample testament to our indulgence in the fast food nation syndrome. And it’s something that, if we want our nation’s health and insurance premiums to change, we need to alter.

The fast food companies have made record profits for decades and this has actually increased since our economy went into a downslide last year. These companies certainly don’t want to lose that edge so they are actually changing their menus. Due to the recent focus on some of the unhealthy ingredients served up, such as fries cooked in cheap, trans-fatty and saturated oils, most of the fast food franchises are making some major changes to their menus.

Rather than lose their fast food nation base of customers, they now seem to understand that they need to change their old business model to stay abreast of the more health conscious consumer. Many have switched to a better grade and healthier type of oil, especially in New York City and other areas that have mandated the change. They are making salads and sub style sandwiches and smoothie style beverages as an alternative to sugar laden sodas. They are offering new, broiled, white meat chicken wraps and bowls.

I don’t mean to be cynical but I imagine that this is a clever marketing strategy, pleasing a new and wider base of loyal customers in our fast food nation. I’m sure this is because they don’t want to go in the direction of Chrysler and G.M. Although if they could get President Clinton re-elected they might have a huge (no pun intended) supporter in the White House that would be subsidizing them personally.

Now this doesn’t mean they’re eliminating the old standbys. You know the processed meat burger made with fillers of who knows what. Sugary sodas and huge piles of greasy French fries are still staples on the typical fast food menus. While many moms that are bringing young kids in for lunch or dinner are choosing healthier items, unsupervised teens and die-hards of the adult persuasion, are still loading up on double burgers with cheese and an extra-large order of fries.

A new contender in the marketplace that the burger franchises may not have properly taken into account, are the new sub style sandwich shops cropping up everywhere. Some have even run TV ads, with testimonials from their customers (Gerad), describing how they lost countless pounds by walking and making the sub shop their regular fast food stop. Artisan, whole grain breads, with a choice of toppings baked into the crust, along with loads of veggies and grilled low fat meats are among their choices for healthy and delicious meals. Many offer an array of beverages, such as smoothies made with real fruit and the traditional orange Julius. These sandwich shops are definitely finding favor with the fast food nation crowd while winning the business of teens and adults alike.

The times, they are a’changing indeed. Although it remains to be seen who captures the heart of the American fast food devotees the good news is that now we can all make healthy choices when we eat at any of these establishments.

By the way, I have a FREE Fitness e-course available that includes healthy eating habits and in the next couple of weeks look for my new healthy diet e-course.

Banff and Jasper National Parks

We loved our trip to Banff and Jasper National Parks in Alberta, Canada! We flew into Edmonton and rented a car. From the prairies, we continuously climbed into the hills and then the mountains. We checked into the Day’s Inn in Hinton. The motel has spacious and comfortable rooms with fridge, coffee maker, microwave, and Wi Fi. A basic continental breakfast is served. Supper at Ranchers Sports Bar and Grill, next door, was tasty. We had veal and pizza, and blackout torte for dessert.

After breakfast, on to Jasper National Park! The mountains are breathtakingly beautiful! It’s about a 20 minute drive to the park gates from Hinton. Park admission is valid for both Jasper and Banff National Parks. We headed to Miette Hot Springs. Stops at Punch Bowl Waterfall, Ashlar Ridge, and other scenic overlooks afforded spectacular views and a chance to get out and stretch. Finally, we arrived at the springs and hiked to the sources. We had a chance to soak our feet in the warm mineral springs and see the ruins of the 1938 bath house. The spring sources were steaming, smelled of sulfur, and were a deep green in color. It was a fun hike and full of hidden treasures. We saw a rattlesnake curled up next to one of the warm springs, and a deer grazing by the parking lot. In fact, we saw lots of deer on the main roads.

We retraced our route back to the main road, Rt. 16 to the town of Jasper, a quaint and bustling little town. Flowers are everywhere, and the architecture is charming. The Japer Brewing Company and Pub was our lunch stop. Their six beers are brewed in house, and we could look into the basement and see the brewery! We ordered a sampler to taste all six. We found we liked the Rockhopper and Honey Beer best. The Vanilla Blueberry was a good dessert! We shared a bison burger and salmon burger, which were delicious. A little sightseeing and shopping, and we were back on the road. At the edge of town we saw a herd of elk. Taking Maligne Lake Road, we encountered some magnificent sights! First, Maligne Canyon gave us majestic views of the gorge, with water rushing and falling. Impressive and magnificent! An imposing elk with huge antlers was quietly munching his lunch. A stop at the dry lake bed of Medicine Lake was fascinating! Tall trees were growing in the bed, because during only part of the year is the lake filled with water! Walking on, we found the rest of the lake, clear as glass, and not as cold as one would think! We got our feet wet, while taking in the spectacular mountain scenery! A herd of big horned sheep blocked the road on our way out, and one took a liking to Greg. She licked his arm and hand, and then tried to munch on his shorts! Then she started for MaryJo, who cleverly out maneuvered her! The sheep ended up tasting the car in front of us, and created quite amusing entertainment for all! On the way out of Jasper National Park, we encountered several animals, who feel no danger! Returning to Hinton, we had supper at Olympia Restaurant, a Greek family run place. MaryJo chose Chicken Mantza, a pan fried stew. Greg ordered the lamb souvlaki. Both were very good!

This morning, after packing, we bought a picnic meal at the IGA at the edge of town, and drove to William A. Switzer Provincial Park, where we enjoyed a wonderful view of Kelley’s Bathtub and the superb Rockies! There are hiking trails, camping, and canoe rentals at the park. It could be a good wallet friendly weekend getaway.

Following a short hike around the lake, we drove on towards Jasper, with the aim of getting to Banff. The weather was very chilly and overcast. Only a small group of big horned sheep was out. We stopped at some overlooks to take photos and take in the astounding views. A short hike at Horseshoe Lake gave us tremendous views and some exercise. Athabasca Falls bestows magnificent views of the falls and canyon. We appreciate that we are able to be here and see such splendid natural sights. Honeymoon Lake is another very pretty spot, and no one else was there!

The Columbia Ice Fields are a series of glaciers, and extremely interesting! In 1844 the glaciers covered where the Ice Centre, a hotel and restaurant is now! Markers show the retreat of the melting glacier to where we saw it today. Because glaciers are very dangerous and people have been injured, visitors are only permitted to walk on the glacier with a trained guide. The glacier is 150 square miles with a depth of 1,148 feet. The walk to the boundary is very steep, and the weather can be harsh, so be prepared! It is exciting to stand at the edge of a glacier! Allow at least an hour! We were cold and damp, so tea and two bowls of soup at the Centre were in order!

Once we crossed over to Banff National Park, we noticed that the mountains seemed even higher, and some of the landscape was other-worldly. Glaciers were on many of the mountains, and the rain was falling. There were several exquisite waterfalls to see; blue mountain lakes; and rushing mountain rivers.

Lake Louise is a charming little village on the way to Banff, and worth a stop. Moraine Lake is there, and some hiking trails, so a half day would give time to explore.

Finally, the town of Banff. It’s nestled in the mountains and exudes charm. It is a little touristy, but there is enough shopping and dining to keep the traveler busy for at least a day. We enjoyed our meal at St. James Gate Irish Pub. Bison Boxty and lamb shank was tasty and filling. What is boxty? A thick and hearty potato pancake. The pub exudes charm! Our home for tonight is Wit’s End, a B & B across the river, but still in town. Our room is very pleasant, comfortable and roomy, with a garden view. Our hosts, Barbara and Vic, are friendly, knowledgeable, and laid back. We recommend it for comfort, hospitality, and information.

Barbara’s breakfast was mouth-watering – scones, eggs, fresh fruit, and coffee. This morning, we did more shopping, stopping at the Hudson Bay Company, which has to be the world’s oldest department store. It’s been in operation since 1670! A trip to the Indian Fur Trading Post was fun. It’s near the Luxton Museum by the river. Two museum visits gave us more of a sense of the rich history of Banff. The Whyte Museum highlighted the Lutz family. Norman Luxton was a driving force in the growth of Banff in the first half of the 20th century. He owned the first all year hotel, a livery, the first movie theater, and was in politics. His wife’s family was powerful in the area during the 1800’s. The Stoney people, the Indians in the Banff area, are also given attention in the museum. Luxton and the Native elders shared a bond of respect and admiration. His wife, daughter, and mother-in-law are featured in the display, “Three Strong Women.” We purchased a Heritage Passport, which includes admission this museum, Banff Park Museum, and the Cave and Basin Museum. A 50% off the Buffalo Nation Luxton Museum is included. That is a bargain! The Banff Park Museum showcases the wildlife of the area, housing stuffed and mounted buffalo, cougar, caribou, sheep, birds and butterflies among others. Allow about an hour for the Whyte museum and 30 minutes for the Banff Park Museum.

Lunch was our final event in Banff. Wild Bill’s Legendary Saloon served us a tasty elk burger and a boar burger with side salad. Wild Bill is a real life Banff hero from the 1800’s and 1900’s. His last name, Peyto, is given to nearby Peyto Lake.

On the way to the town of Golden, our next destination, we stopped to hike to Johnston Canyon, a worthwhile trek! The falls were splendid! The journey took us less than an hour. It was a little crowded, even with the rain, but by the time we reached the falls, there were very few people around. On the road again, we encountered four majestically antlered elk! They know they are VIPs, and don’t allow us people to hurry them along. They promenade along the road and graze gracefully by the roadside.

Banff has been a first class destination, both the park and the town. We have really enjoyed ourselves and found some authentic treasures. On our next trip, we’ll spend more time. Banff can easily accommodate a week’s vacation. On to Golden, British Columbia, and what’s around the next bend in the road!