TransFair USA: Paul Rice

TransFair USA is the main organization that does fair trade certification in the US. Seeing the person who started fair trade made me feel star-struck. Seeing Paul Rice in the flesh made it seem much more possible to do something as cool as create fair trade.

He got started by traveling to Nicaragua and realizing that conscious consumers in Europe (and then the US) would spend slightly more to buy fair trade coffee and that he could save money by cutting out the middle person. This meant that local farmers got $1 per pound of coffee ($1.26 before shipping and such) rather than $0.10 per pound. With the surplus money, he helped to build schools and bring public utilities like clean water to the farmers' villages.

One of Rice's points was that people want to help others, but they just don't have time. If an entrepreneur makes it easy -- makes it a purchase at a store that an individual already shops at and have a certification label -- people tend to be conscious consumers. It isn't just the Whole Foods crowd. Even people who shop at Dunkin Donuts, Walmart, and for Dole bananas like to buy fair trade products.

Rice said that his need for computer science folks was for database migration.

Rice's final words of encouragement: "You too can buy a one-way ticket to Nicaragua."