Think of the things you purchase and what you get in exchange. That $5 weekly latte you crave could protect abused animals. The $30 Sports Illustrated subscription could sponsor a child’s meals, medical care, and school supplies. And those designer jeans for $150?  They could buy a llama and a new economic opportunity for a needy family in Peru.

We all do it. We buy the cute pair of shoes we know are impractical to actually wear or splurge on the biggest flat screen TV we can buy rather than donating that money to a more worthy cause. But why do we do it? Because we’re selfish, or as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it: “Devoted to or concerned with one’s own advantage or welfare to the exclusion of regard for others.”

And here’s why that’s a good thing.

Rocky Mountain PBS Chief Executive Officer Doug Price recently said at a retreat at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science:

“Progress is made at the intersection of selfishness and altruism.”

Humans can be completely and utterly selfish, but we are also designed to be selfless. We donate to organizations, volunteer our time, give blood, say prayers… all for the good of other people. It is where these two aspects of human nature meet that we can do the most good, and fair trade is no better example.

As a community we value things of beauty, as a form of expression, a reflection of self, and simply as art. These things bring us happiness; that latte brings joy to our taste buds, Sports Illustrated provides entertainment, and nothing compares to how you look in those jeans! Realistically, none of us are going to stop buying the things which provide aesthetic value to our lives. We’re too “selfish” for that. Fair trade lets us bring the two together, with fair trade, you’re feeling good and doing good.

So, here’s the good news, don’t beat yourself up for being selfish. Recognize it as a part of who we are just as is the desire to give back. Instead, embrace and intersect the two.  Go out there and make a difference by choosing fair trade coffee, shopping fair trade retailers, and spreading the word about how being selfish and selfless is making a big difference in this world.

– Lisa Parker, Contributing Blogger