If you are looking to buy something sweet for yourself or others close to you, and want to do so in the spirit of our times, I highly recommend Theo Chocolate. The company is local and committed to the highest existing standards of fair trade. True, their chocolates are not dead cheap, but if something is cheap, it often means someone in the supply chain is being exploited. We have to get realistic about the world we live in. Our wages have been flat for 30 years, and one of the reasons we can still buy so much shit is because of the growing disparity not between the 1 percent and us, but between us and the global poor. Sadly, fair trade is the only thing out there that's trying to address the huge income gap between consumers in rich countries and producers in poor ones.

But the future now looks bleak for the fair trade movement in America. Fair Trade USA recently parted with the standards of certification set by Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO), which is based in Europe, and plans to expand its brand across a wider area of the market. What does this mean for you, the enlightened consumer, the consumer who has for years depended on the fair trade logo to guide your socially responsible buying? You may now have to look more closely at the fair trade logo because one, backed by FLO, will have 20 percent fair trade content, whereas the logo backed by Fair Trade USA might have as little as 10 percent.

Ballard-based Theo Chocolate left Fair Trade USA in 2010 because it believes the fair trade logo should be meaningful. "A reduction in the standards for Fair Trade USA will not affect Theo standards for our own products at all, as we have a different certification with much higher standards," wrote Debra Music, Theo's vice president of sales and marketing in an e-mail. Theo is now certified by IMO Fair for Life, a Swiss nonprofit organization whose fair trade standards are reputed to be high. IMO also certified Theo's Fremont factory (work conditions, employee benefits, and so on). Music also states that Theo is the "only certified organic, certified fair trade bean-to-bar maker in the entire US, not just Seattle!" So there. Buy their chocolates and feel good about it. recommended