When I was at school, if the wind was in the wrong direction, there were times you got a rather unpleasant whiff floating in the air. The aroma came from the sugarbeet processing plant a couple of miles away, (now sadly closed).
I was reminded of this looking at the back of the Silver Spoon bag of sugar as I made my cup of tea this morning. They had information about it being the only British grown sugar and about most of the beet they use coming from an average of 28 miles away from their Bury St. Edmunds factory. Sugar remains a really important industry in Suffolk.
For a while I didn’t buy Silver Spoon because I was trying to buy fair trade wherever I could, particularly on low cost essentials but then I was reminded by somebody about the differences between sugar beet and sugar cane. I’d become disconnected from what I’d grown up with and in trying to be an ethical consumer had actually made a decision which was helping to economically harm the community I came from. That’s why I now always ensure that my granulated sugar is from the local company.
I post this not as an advert for Silver Spoon but to make the point that ethical consumerism is more complex than just buying fair trade or going to a farmers market. There are occasions when it makes ethical sense to buy something without the Fairtrade label, as opposed to an alternative with. However, to be able to do this we need to understand where our food is coming from and how it is produced. I’d grown up knowing, but had somehow forgotten. Just looking for the Fairtrade label had, in some ways, made me lazy.