If you are unfamiliar with the term "fair trade" it is used to describe products that are purchased and sourced responsibly and sustainably. Usually it refers to ensuring a few basic things: living wages for producers, worker's rights, and the sustainability of product,.
There are some products that are purchased for such a small amount of money that those who produce the goods are unable to earn enough money to live. If buyers are only willing to purchase things like: coffee, fish, rice, etc. for too small an amount of money, the workers and their families are forced to sell their product for an amount that they cannot live off of. This increases the profit margin for the company buying the products, but the cost to the workers is extreme. Choosing fair trade products means you are buying from a company that was ethical in their business dealings. For example, if you have purchased fair trade tea, this means that the workers who collected the tea leaves were able to sell the tea to the manufacturer for enough to cover their basic needs. It's hard to believe that there are cases when this is not the case, but unfortunately it can be.
Fair trade products are also monitored for the conditions of the workers all throughout the process of bringing a product to market. If you buy fair trade clothing, this means the workers who collected the materials AND the workers who helped to create the clothing were all treated fairly and not subject to extreme or dangerous working environments. Fair trade products absolutely prohibit child or slave labor in the production of their items as well as ensuring that certain health and safety measures are met for every worker involved. Workers are also given the right to unionize or organize in other ways in order to advocate for themselves.
There is such an abundance of life and beauty on this earth that it can be difficult to imagine what things would be like if we were to lose these things. However, with pressure to increase profits and decrease costs ever mounting it can be easy for companies (local and international) to cut corners or over-use resources in order to stay in business or stay competitive in the market.
This can have devastating results - pollution in rivers, fires, chemical spills, overfishing/farming, destruction and depletion of forests and other natural resources. These have lasting and often devastating results. Fair trade items are sourced from companies that are doing their part to ensure that the product can continue to be made safely and without drastic environmental impact. This is a huge step in protecting the world that we love.
There are many producers and sellers of alpaca products out there. Luckily, many meet the fair trade standards and are working toward providing excellent items for fair pricing. Finding the right company and the right product may take some extra leg work, but it is worth every effort.
Producers are generally the owners of the alpacas themselves. These men and women are responsible for providing food, shelter, health maintenance, and exercise to their animals. Purchasing, maintaining, and replacing the tools necessary for gathering the wool is also their responsibility. They also own or must rent the land that the animals live on. In order for these men and women to make a suitable living, they must: be able to cover all of these costs, to save for future purchases of animals and equipment needed, have enough left over to feed and shelter, and provide for themselves and their families.
Alpaca wool is typically gathered once per year in the springtime. This generally is done by shearing the animal to remove the excess wool that has grown over the year. This process is similar to getting a hair cut and should be painless to the animal.
Lanolin is present on many types of wool fibers, particularly sheep's wool. This requires chemical processing to remove the lanolin and utilize the wool. Alpaca fibers are naturally without lanolin, which means they don't require the same level of overall processing or the use of chemicals. Dyes can be used to color the fibers if desired, these can be naturally derived dyes.
Alpacas generally eat 1.5% of their body weight each day (less than sheep and other grazing animals), can live in many climates, and live for up to 20 years. During this time they typically produce about 200 pounds of wool, which is a significant amount.
These things make alpacas a great investment for sustainable farming and makes their products very eco-friendly.