A Cup Of Fair Trade Coffee With Your Football?


Quite a while ago I wrote an article on bird friendly coffee. In addition to being Fair Trade and organic, this coffee helps to reverse the terrible effects traditional coffee growing methods have had on migratory birds. Take a look at the article and see if you can make this small change to your coffee buying routine. The coffee is becoming more readily available all time. Fred Meyer is still the main big box grocery that carries it, but many smaller stores and food co-ops also have it.

Now we move from coffee beans to volley balls. Fair Trade Sports in Seattle is making what they call “Fair Trade, Eco-Friendly Sports Balls”. Not only is the company using only rubber from responsibly managed forests, it also requires fair wages and healthy working conditions for all workers in the manufacturing process. Update, 2011: It appears that Fair Trade Sports has been purchased by Senda. Take a look at their description. One thing I found strange is that they do not sell any basketballs so I immediately sent them that question. Within a few minutes I had the answer. They just did start producing basketballs, but a supplier purchased the entire inventory! Another thing I question is the price of their balls. In a comment and answer on their blog they seem to say they will not pass the higher cost of manufacturing this way on to customers. However, their balls are indeed significantly more expensive than what I am used to paying at our local team sports supply business. I would think it would be easy to explain and justify the higher cost of their products rather than just claim they are price competitive.

Apparently this is a growing trend in sporting goods. That is a good thing, but the companies that are entering this market will have to compete on price if they are to achieve any market saturation at all. After a certain level of quality, price becomes the number one factor in consumer buying decisions.

It's only fair to share...Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn
Will Sig
1 JD Thomas

One easy term people can look for on labels when buying coffee is “shade grown”. I know you go into that in your earlier post but in case people skip that, I wanted to mention it here.

I first encountered bird friendly – shade grown – coffee at a store that sells bird feeders and bird seed in Marlton, NJ. I had stopped in to buy feed for my feeders and they had a small display by the register with a nice tutorial on how coffee can be produced with less impact on the land and wildlife. I’ve never gone back to mass produced coffee.

As far as the price of those balls, and to a large extent, fair trade products in general, they will never be able to bring their prices down to the level of what you see in a Modells or Walmart. I’d rather they keep their prices at a level that makes them profitable and sell a smaller number of units, as long as it keeps them selling them period.

To compete with prices offered by large scale retailers with their own very large and controlled supply chain is not possible without becoming more like them and I think thats the last thing we want.


2 JD Thomas

I mean to say that not ALL shade grown coffee is raised i the best possible manner, but its better than the alternative.


3 Will

Yes, you are correct, JD. Some coffee producers are really abusing the “shade grown” label. If it is labeled “bird friendly” with the Smithsonian label, that is what you should buy.

As JD noted, there is a lot more information in the original article I link to in the above post.


4 Scott James

Good points, Will. But we’re finding that price is not necessarily the #1 factor in buying decisions after quality. As evidence, I would point to the rise of high-end companies like Whole Foods and Gaiam, who certainly do not sell based on price.

When we describe our certified Fair Trade sports balls as being price competitive, we always try to name the specific brand/model we are competing with…one that is at the same quality level as ours.

You and your readers are correct that we’ll likely never get our prices down to the level you find at your local team sports supply business or at your town’s big-box stores. But that’s not our goal.

Many of the sports balls found at those big box stores are not only from dubious sources in social justice terms of labor, but they also tend to be the lower quality balls made of PVC, rather than polyurethane (synthetic leather). Polyurethane, although far from perfect, is significantly less harsh on our producers and the environment.

As you described in your post, we now have the first eco-certified sports balls in North America as well. The latex air bladder inside every Fair Trade Sports ball now comes from our FSC-certified rubber tree forest in India (where the workers also receive a Fair Trade wage).

And good news! We’re making the basketball sku live on the website later today! Keep in mind, this is just a $20 training-quality street ball…not the $50 high-end ball you are likely used to playing with. But I am excited for the progress we are making to date!

Stop by our gear shop in a few hours and you should see the basketball live on the site. And for a sneak peek at it, check out this hilarious-yet-informative video from ViroPOP which features the basketball.

– Scott James
Founder, Fair Trade Sports
Blog: http://www.fairtradesports.com
Fair Trade basketballs!


5 Will

Thanks for that, Scott! And I am glad to hear you are finding that, for your company, after quality, price is not always the first priority. Besides, with your company model, you are probably not competing with WalMart, etc. anyway.

That is a funny video and super publicity for FTS. That girl’s got a bright future!



6 Robin Henderson

The issue of sports and developing countries is a broad one. Not only are sporting goods usually made in the same suffering sweatshops that produce our clothes and other consumer goods, but typically the people in those countries can’t even afford to buy one of what they’re making. There’s something wrong with a world in which the most popular sport (soccer football) only requires a single piece of equipment, but most people can’t afford even that.

Some years ago I visited a public school in the back hills of Guatemala. I was informed by a friend ahead of time that a gift of footballs would be most appreciated, as the kids had difficulty getting them. As I’m an old football player and coach myself, I toured all the Good Valu Army stores in my area and bought up as many good ones as I could find, which I deflated and muled down in my luggage. The kids and teachers were delighted.

The same friend said that they also have a major problem getting needles (needles, for crying out loud!) so I brought down a bunch of those, too. Now I hear that someone is developing a football that will behave like a traditional inflatable one, but is solid and never needs pumping up or patching. Somebody out there is thinking.


Rusty Ring: Reflections of an Old-Timey Hermit.
Robin Henderson recently posted..Koan: Hyung’s CowMy Profile


Cancel reply

Thank you for your comments

CommentLuv badge
My full comment policy is linked here, but please do not use a keyword as your name. For great referrrals and backlinks, link to your site in the box and by using CommentLuv

Previous post:

Next post: