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The uplifting story of the discarded juice packet

The uplifting story of the discarded juice packet…

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A Fortnight For Change

The uplifting story of the discarded juice packet…

What do discarded juice packets, fashionable bags and survivors of sexual exploitation have in common? They are all concerned, one way or another, with environmental justice. And as environmental justice is the theme of this year’s Fair Trade Fortnight (3-18 May), they are more than worth writing a few words about.

The foil drink pouch is a popular way to sell fruit drinks in the Philippines. The juice is consumed in vast quantities throughout the Philippines. The problem is that the foil pouches are a major environmental hazard that litter the streets. But, the indestructibility of the foil pouches has proved to be a silver lining for the poor of Olongapo City and surrounding towns. Every Friday afternoon at the Olongapo rubbish dump, the PREDA (Peoples Recovery Empowerment and Development Assistance) waste management and purchasing team arrive to buy thousands of foil pouches from over 100 waste collectors. The collectors are the poorest of the poor and include single mothers and teenage school drop outs. Before the PREDA recycling project, the waste collectors struggled to survive from their slim pickings on the dump. But the PREDA project now provides a small income to buy healthy food and other essentials that were once only a dream.

The juice pouches bought from the waste collectors and ten schools involved in PREDA’s environmental education programme are washed and sanitised and then distributed to around 45 home-based sewers including abandoned wives with hungry children, survivors of sexual exploitation and out of work sewers. These sewers work with skill and dexterity to turn the recycled juice pouches into bright and colourful bags, sun hats, backpacks, wallets, belts and slippers. They are paid for each piece they produce, and some sewers are now able to earn more than the average Philippines wage. The fashionable bags and other items are then shipped around the world to Europe, Australia and New Zealand for sale as fair trade products.

Beyond the bags, the PREDA project creates awareness of environmental fragility, and motivates and organises clean up activities in the communities. It provides sustainable home and community based employment for the sewers and waste collectors. It improves the status of local women by empowering them with good earnings, interest free loans, and skills training in using recycled material. It is an alternative to begging and helps to protect their children from being trafficked. It is a project which simply lives and breathes ‘environmental justice.’

Environmental justice is more than just another slogan designed to make us feel guilty about our over-consumptive Western lifestyles. It is about seeking justice for the world’s poor as the adverse environmental effects of climate change begin to be felt around the world. Ironically it's those with the smallest carbon footprint who are likely to be the biggest losers as a result of climate change. Adverse effects of climate change will be an additional burden on top of already existing economic vulnerability. Environmental justice focuses on this group of people.

The UN Development Programme has already warned that climate change will hit the world’s poorest countries, raising risks of disease, destruction of traditional livelihoods and leading to huge population movements. The recent Greenpeace ‘Blue Alert’ Report predicts that 75 million people will be displaced in Bangladesh with the rising sea levels triggered by a projected increase in global temperature during this century. Closer to home, the fate of low-lying Tuvalu in the Pacific is of huge concern, and the prospect of 12,000 environmental refugees is a real possibility.

How does fair trade support environmental justice? Fair trade offers an environmentally sustainable alternative to conventional trade. Fair trade encourages the production of items that have a minimal impact on the environment while creating terms of trade that ensure that these processes remain sustainable for future generations. The cost of helping producers with environmental sustainability is often built into the fair trade price. Fair trade enables both producers and consumers to make a real contribution to environmental justice.

For example, Trade Aid encourages consumers to look at the carbon footprint of production of consumer items in addition to the current trend of examining an item’s air miles. Although air miles can be a useful indication of a product’s carbon footprint, the vast differences in lifestyle between developed and developing countries which affect production processes are also worth considering. A fashionable PREDA juice bag from the Philippines made from recycled waste material by sewers in their own homes, with minimal electricity and without heavy machinery, has a low carbon footprint, even after sea freighting it to the market.

It is only by collective action that the promise of environmental justice will be realised. To become a reality, environmental justice requires action from rich and poor, north and south, developed and developing, with all taking collective responsibility for the future of our planet. As Sue Waugh, one of the artists in Christchurch Trade Aid’s “Junk to Green Funk” art competition said, “we all need to make a conscious decision to challenge and prioritise our lifestyles to ensure the health of the natural world, for present and future generations.”


Additional information about Trade Aid’s interest and participation in Fair Trade Fortnight and Environmental Justice activities:

About Trade Aid

Trade Aid is the New Zealand pioneer in fair trade and has been revolutionising trade for over 35 years. We are a not for profit organisation that believes in an alternative form of trade – a fairer form. Trade Aid is working to improve the livelihoods and well being of disadvantaged producers and speaking out for greater justice in world trade.

Trade Aid is committed to placing our trading partners, their identity, and their product at the front of all of our business activities. Trade Aid is 100% fair trade, fair trade is all that we do. Trade Aid is also active in advocating and educating within New Zealand for fairer trade and to raise awareness of trading injustices – such as the eradication of poverty and slavery.

Trade Aid’s form of trade helps to enrich, empower and transform disadvantaged producers’ lives around the world through income generation that helps to restore producers’ dignity and self reliance. This helps them send, and keep, their children in school, provides adequate housing and access to health care. Our trading structure supports social change and gives women a voice, protects the environment and creates sustainable development that enables producers to invest in their futures. Trade Aid’s form of trade gives producers hope for the future of them, their families, their communities and their countries.

Why Environmental Justice?

Environmental justice calls for recognition that the world’s poorest people have the lightest carbon footprints, yet are the people whose food security, livelihoods and homes are most threatened by climate change and environmental destruction.

Many of Trade Aid’s trading partners and producers are increasingly affected by climate change on top of their economic vulnerability. Trade Aid is organising events across New Zealand aimed at making New Zealanders think about the justice issues surrounding our current lifestyles as part of its Fair Trade Fortnight celebrations. Trade Aid promotes fair trade as an environmentally sustainable alternative to conventional trade and to encourage consumers to look at the carbon footprints of production in addition to the current trend of examining travel miles.

Trade Aid encourages the production of items that have a minimal impact on the environment while creating terms of trade that ensure that these processes remain sustainable for future generations. The cost of helping our producers with environmental sustainability is included in the fair price we pay. As such, Trade Aid’s fair trade products have a minimal environmental impact and are a good choice when looking to reduce one’s own impact on the environment.

How does Trade Aid help?

Through paying a fair price and long term relationships, fair trade puts people and the environment first. Trade Aid helps protect our world and encourages the production of items that have a minimal impact on the environment while creating terms of trade that ensure these processes remain sustainable for future generations.

* The price paid to the producer, recognises the need for a surplus that can be reinvested back into the process, reducing harmful impacts or increasing the quality of the product.

* Craft production uses traditional, handcrafted methods and skills passed down through generations reducing emissions and energy consumption.

* In the case of food products, steps towards organic production are encouraged, supported and rewarded.

* Local communal decision making about profits and production processes allows producer communities to look at the real cost of production and to consider where premiums or profits should be directed.

* The producer is supported and encouraged to consider environmental alternatives

* Producers often live where they work increasing the motivation to assess their impact on the environment.

* Products wherever possible are freighted by sea not air, reducing carbon emissions and the use of fossil fuels.

Trade Aid events:

Trade Aid is organising events across New Zealand aimed at making New Zealanders think about the justice issues surrounding our current lifestyles. The main areas of activity focus:


Education resources are available and many local schools are teaching Environmental Justice in 2008 and 2009.


Fair Trade Fortnight is a fortnight of events run by local Trade Aid shops and numerous NZ NGO’s with a focus on fairer trade. For regional events check out


30 regional, well-known artists have been entered into the National Art Auction scheduled for June 3 at the Wellington Town Hall. For a full list of artists involved visit

Aspiring artists

Junk to Green Funk is an on-line art competition with 4 categories from pre-school to open where anyone of any age and skill can enter an art piece made from recycled materials. It runs from April 01 to June 5 and will be judged by a panel consisting of judges from arts and environment backgrounds. Check out the entries on-line at

For more information on Environmental Justice download the brochure from the Trade Aid website

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