Online shopping or E-commerce in America has been growing at an extremely fast rate. With the increasing popularity of smart phones and tablets, more and more consumers are shopping online. Online shopping has many advantages over traditional approaches.

The first advantage is that consumers can easily access the virtual store from anywhere, at any time, through smart phone and tablet applications. Many companies are getting away from physical stores and moving into the virtual world. The internet has the ability to reach a wider range of customers and cut down on operating costs for companies.

The second advantage of online shopping is that consumers can easily compare pricing of the same product across different websites and different companies. Last but not least, E-commerce offers a more competitive pricing structure to satisfy the shoppers.

In 2012, E-commerce sales in the U.S reached almost $289 billion, a shocking number compared to $256 billion in 2011. This number is expected to grow to $361.9 billion by 2016. While one third of e-commerce sales come from travel and flight booking, the majority of purchases are from retail sales.

The leading categories in retail e-commerce are Electronic/Appliances (21.93%) and Apparel/Accessories (20.93%). With the holidays approaching, the e-commerce sector is performing better than ever.

Along with the growth of e-commerce, many internet retailing companies are contributing more towards the fight to end global poverty. One of these companies is Amazon has implemented a program to support the cause, contributing up to $40 for every $1000 spent toward global poverty reduction.

Check out the Borgen Project Amazon Link. At the same time, many other organizations like Tom’s Shoes, offer free products and services to people in poverty around the world.

According to the numbers, between $17 billion to $28 billion can be contributed annually to global poverty reduction just by shopping online alone. To put this into perspective, the USAID annual budget is only $33 billion, UNICEF’s budget is even lower at $11.7 billion, and the annual short fall to end world hunger is $30 billion.

U.S consumers alone can make up for more than UNICEF’s budget and almost enough to cover the short fall to end world hunger. Consumers should strive to increase their awareness of organizations offer contributions and get enrolled. It is easy, simple, and comes at almost no cost to the online shoppers.

Phong Pham

Sources: Borgen Project, Statista,

Oxfam Fair Trade
Coffee is the second most-traded commodity and one of the most consumed drinks around the world. The consumption of coffee is a universal business within its own, for its demand is incredibly high worldwide. Drinking coffee has become almost second nature to many who can afford it. American author and journalist, Sarah Vowell, says that she realized that drinking a mocha, although seemingly trivial, was in fact “to gulp down the entire history of the New World.” She continues on to say that the modern mocha is nothing less than a “bittersweet concoction of imperialism, genocide, invention, and consumerism served with whipped cream on top.”

Taken into consideration how big of a role coffee plays in people’s lives today, one would think that people would know where their coffee was coming from and what kind of conditions it was produced in. However, the truth is to the contrary because many people have no idea what conditions coffee producers undergo. Approximately 25 million farmers depend on coffee production/sales to make their living, and many of them live in poverty. The coffee market is prone to severe fluctuations due to changes in climate which in turn affect the growth patterns of coffee plants. Due to the longevity of the growth of coffee plants, producers cannot react quickly to changes in coffee demand. Thus, this is where smart consumers can help poor people, and in particular, coffee producers.

As smart informed consumers, people can buy certified fair trade coffee which basically means that farmers and coffee producers are paid a fair and stable price regardless of changing conditions. A recent Oxfam Australia survey reports that more than 85% of consumers want more fair trade products in their supermarkets, and 60% believe that their consumer decisions can make a difference in the lives of producers and farmers in less-developed countries. Marcial Valladolid, from CACVRA, which is a small producer organization in Peru, expressed how coffee cultivation used to disappoint him because the money he made was not remotely close to cover the cost of his coffee production. CACVRA uses its fair trade premium to “support and improve organic cultivation and certification.” By joining this cooperative, Marcel is content that he was able to receive some profit, and he is hopeful for a future with more fair trade.

It is no wonder that coffee was once described by Neil Gaiman as “sweet as sin,” taking into account all the producers and farmers horribly affected by our enjoyment of their produce. Majority of coffee producers live in developing countries including Brazil, Colombia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Ethiopia, and Mexico. Luckily, our enjoyment can come as a better price as the conditions can change because certified fair trade products are becoming increasingly available and accessible through independent grocers, major supermarkets, and retail stores. Thus, making the switch to becoming a smart consumer could not be any easier today. Make the switch today and change people’s lives.

– Leen Abdallah

Sources: AU News, Good Reads
Photo: Google, Google