Week 45 - How to buy Sustainable Tropical Products
A theme that regular readers of my Weekly Green Tips series will recognise is that it is good for the environment to buy products that are produced locally. They support the local community and have few transport miles associated with them. So get your fruit and veg from the local farmers' market or farm shop whenever you can. BUT, what if your local area cannot produce the things you want? What about products grown in tropical regions. Should you simply not buy them? In fact the answer is you SHOULD buy them, but pick and choose which ones.
7 Tips for Buying Sustainable Tropical Products
1. Why we need to buy Organic Products.
Tropical products provide the backbone of the economy for many tropical countries and if the West were suddenly to stop buying them we would put millions of people further into poverty. However there are ways we can buy tropical goods that help these countries and ways that harm.
2. Buy Fairtrade
Fairtrade is about paying farmers and workers a fair wage and ensuring decent working conditions. By supporting fairtrade products you are helping to develop thriving communities that are in control and not reliant on charity, whose futures are secure.
3. Buy Organic
Put in the simplest of terms, products that are grown organically will not contain pesticide residues and the farmers and workers who produce them will not have been exposed to these health damaging products.
4. Don't buy Cheap Pineapples
Whilst it is said the thick skin of the pineapple, which isn't eaten, protects the inner flesh from having pesticide residues the far bigger problem with non organic pineapples is the damage by pesticides to both the farmers growing them and the environment as a whole. Many are also working for very low wages without any union support.
Fernando Ramirez, an agronomist from Costa Rica's National University explains the problems of pineapple production in his country.
"Pineapples need very large amounts of pesticides, about 20kg of active ingredient per hectare per cycle. The soil is sterilised; biodiversity is eliminated. Fourteen to 16 different types of treatment are typically needed, and many have to be applied several times. They use chemicals that are dangerous for the environment and human health."
5. Buy Bananas
Unlike most fruits, bananas ripen off the plant. They are therefore picked when green and transported by boat which is more environmentally friendly than flying. They ripen on the longer journey without spoiling. Oh and organic bananas really do taste so much sweeter.
6. Buy FSC Certified Hardwoods
FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council, an not for profit international organisation with the remit of promoting responsible forests where the highest environmental and social standards are maintained. Buying FSC certified hardwoods will ensure the wood is not illegally felled from virgin rainforest and that the forests where it is grown are managed sustainably.
7. Never Buy:
There are certain tropical products that you should never buy as they can never be sustainable. These include coral, tortoise shell, fur and palm oil. In contrast, buying fairtrade and organic tea, coffee, chocolate, spices and nuts etc can be sustainable.
Have you seen all the other posts in my #WeeklyGreenTips series? Click on "Weekly Green Tips" in the labels section in the right hand column for loads more green inspiration.