Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about bananas. Banana brain, that’s me. It’s been on my mind a lot. I do not normally think much about bananas. I eat them. That’s about it. So why have they taken up so much of my thought life recently?
Here’s the thing: bananas are neither local nor sustainable. Not in my wildest dreams could I possibly claim them to be so. Unless of course you happen to have a banana in your backyard? I don’t. On my wish list, but they are finicky to grow in New Zealand even in our temperate-subtropical climate, so not exactly high on that list. I’m trying to live my life in a more ethical and sustainable way, and bananas don’t fit well with that.
Until now, I could ignore it. I knew that the bananas imported into NZ from the Philippines and Ecuador are not grown particularly safely, nor the workers paid a decent working wage. It bothered me. But not enough to stop eating bananas. It’s hard to break a habit of a lifetime, particularly when you have never personally been confronted by the reality of what that habit means to other people’s lives. So I put it in the ‘too hard’ and ‘doesn’t really apply to me’ categories.
But now things are different.
Fairtrade bananas have arrived at my local PaknSave and New World supermarkets. All Good Bananas. I got a brochure. I read their website. And I thought, and thought, and thought. Amy, you are a banana brain!
Do we make the switch? Do we carry on as we are? Why bother, why not? Ahhhh, back and forth I have been swinging. Here is a (brief) summary of my recent thoughts.
Why switch to Fairtrade bananas:
Less chemicals – better for me and better for the people handling and growing them, better for the land, waterways and overall health of the planet
Fair wages – the farmers get guaranteed a minimum price for their bananas, which means they can feed their kids and send them to school (now I’d be really upset if I couldn’t do that for my son)
The bananas come from a cooperative of 400 small community owned farms in Ecuador – that means that most of the profits actually go back to the community that produced the goods – they get to choose what it is used for, rather than a big corporation swallowing up the rewards of their hard work
Imported by a small New Zealand business that has obviously thought about the ethics of bananas and worked really hard to get Fairtrade bananas here!
Taste – fabulous! We have tried a few bunches while thinking things through. Mmmm, mmm. Yummy.
Why not switch to Fairtrade bananas:
Cost - $3.90 a bunch (850g-1.1kg), so more than ‘normal’ bananas (which are usually between $1.90 and $3.00/kg)
Our limited income – which makes a cost increase really difficult to absorb (could we eat less of them and more of something local, can we manage the cost of 20 bananas a week – our current horrifying total – no wonder we keep needing to traipse back and forth to the supermarket. We are nearly monkeys, we eat that many!!)
Availability – I’ve been keeping an eye out and sometimes there just haven’t been any in store when I’ve needed to buy bananas
Here we come to the crunch. Do I go with my beliefs, my ethics? It has been really easy to ignore the consequences of our banana-eating habits until now. There were no other options available. But now I have a choice.
A choice that will be better for my health, but in ways I can’t see.
A choice that will be better for other people’s livelihoods, but I will probably never meet them to hear their stories.
A choice that is better for the environment, but the effects seem so, so far away.
A choice that will cost, that might mean scraping some other little luxury out of our already thinned grocery list.
A choice that might mean eating less bananas than I WANT to this week because we don’t have money for the Fairtrade ones.
Hard, hard, hard. I really want to support Fairtrade. I buy Fairtrade hot chocolate, but hardly ever drink it so it’s not like it is making much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. But this is something we eat EVERY week. The more people who choose to buy Fairtrade, the more Fairtrade goods will be offered. The lower the end price will become, as costs of scale and production improve. The more standard businesses will be forced to look at the ethics of how they produce goods. Fairtrade is worth supporting. But not necessarily easy.
Having thought about this for a few weeks, and discussed it over and over with Boyo, my final conclusion (which is subject to change – does that mean it isn’t really final?!?) is that we will buy Fairtrade bananas when they are in stock and decent quality. We will try it for a couple of months and see if we can manage the cost. If there aren’t any there when we go to buy bananas, ‘normal’ ones will do. We will see how it goes.
If you want to know more about All Good Bananas and where you can buy them in NZ, check out their website here!