Shopping is easier than ever these days. Whether you visit a local supercenter where you can get milk, a television and a pair of socks in one trip, or if you hop online to have your heart's desire delivered to your doorstep, everything and anything you want is at your fingertips. Of course, along with the ease of convenience comes the responsibility of making smart choices. As Americans, our purchases have a large effect on people around the world by looking at the labels on the items we buy, we can make sure this effect is a positive one.

We have all seen the packages with all of their labels and logos: "organic," "sustainably produced," "shade grown," "rainforest friendly," "RSPO," "recycled content," "locally grown," "fair trade"... Figuring out what these mean and finding the balance between our pocketbooks and our world impact can be difficult, but not impossible. The key is awareness. If each of us changes, just one shopping habit for a more environmentally and/or world friendly option, the results will be incredible.

Most of these terms refer to the environmental impact of the item. Some were produced without harmful chemicals; others were grown in the rainforest without damaging the local ecosystem. While I encourage you to look for these labels and buy environmentally friendly products whenever possible, this is only one piece of a larger puzzle. "Fair trade" products represent another part of the picture. The fair trade label tells you something about the economic impact of your purchase.

Fair trade products represent the ideal of people working at jobs that they enjoy, in their home lands while being paid fair and reasonable wages. When you purchase fair trade products, you are helping to make sure that women in Bangladesh are able to live independently or that children in Peru receive an education. Purchasing these products helps the people living in these areas and allows them, in turn, to make smart choices in their own lives. When people live in conditions which are so poor most Americans can't even conceive of them, it is difficult to focus on maintaining a healthy ecosystem or preventing pollution. Fair trade products provide a viable income for these people and allow them to obtain more education and adopt a larger environmental and world view for themselves.

This weekend, you have the opportunity to make a difference for people around the world by visiting Lee Richardson Zoo's Global Bazaar. From 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, stop by the zoo's Wild Asia triangle to sample a selection of food, crafts and art from local vendors representing global cultures. The "10,000 Villages" booth will highlight fair trade products from around the world. My favorites are the recycled products like the baskets made from newspaper by people in the Philippines or the thumb piano created from an old sardine can made by artists in Burkina Faso. Many new and unique items are also available including boxes carved from cinnamon trees in Vietnam and corn husk figurines made in Colombia. A purchase from "10,000 Villages" means that you will have a great talking piece in your home and you can feel good about helping people around the world.

As always, walk-through admission to the zoo is free and you can still drive through as usual. However you get here, the Global Bazaar promises to be a worthwhile excursion. Come early to beat the heat and get the best selection of crafts and items from around world!

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