SHOPPING in Bolton is all about Fairtrade this month.

The town is at the forefront of the Fairtrade movement, and it’s not just tea, coffee and chocolate in our shopping baskets.

There are now more than 3,000 products that neither exploit the environment nor the people who produce them.

And there are a growing number of outlets from which to buy them in Bolton.

The Mayor of Bolton, Cllr Anthony Connell, is the town’s patron of Fairtrade during his term of office.

Fairtrade tea and coffee are served at the town hall, and he regularly buys Fairtrade products.

“We know that simple action does such a lot of good, by helping more than seven million farmers and growers across the world to earn a decent amount for their hard work, and so to help themselves out of poverty,” he said.

Bolton-based comedian Dave Spikey has been involved in promoting Fairtrade Fortnight, as well as Bolton-born Radio 1 DJ Sara Cox, Bolton boxing champion Amir Khan and Coronation Street's Julie Hesmondhalgh (aka Hayley Cropper).

So far, 52 stores and shops in Bolton sell the products, from independent outlets to major players ranging from Marks and Spencer to Lidl. There’s Justicia A Fair World Shop in Knowsley Street, which specialises in fair-trade goods.

At the last count, there were also 36 cafes, restaurants and coffee shops, 22 schools and colleges, 55 workplaces and canteens and 48 churches and faith organisations that serve or sell Fairtrade goods in Bolton.

Fairtrade in Bolton co-ordinator Jim Hollyman said he was particularly impressed with the Fairtrade wines — perhaps a less obvious choice of product, but increasingly widely available, and of good quality. “There are some very good red wines, and some have won international awards,” said Jim.

But it’s not just food and drink. Fairtrade clothing is also growing in popularity, Jim said, and Justicia has a popular line in handicrafts and jewellery carrying the BAFTS (British Association for Fair Trade Shops) mark.

The group Jim leads in Bolton started in 1999, and was the driving force behind the town achieving Fairtrade status in 2003 for meeting certain criteria, such as having a certain percentage of shops, restaurants and cafes selling at least two Fairtrade products.

Bolton was only the 12th town in the country to do so, but around 400 have since followed.

Since 2003, the number of organisations involved in Bolton has doubled.

“One of the reasons why Bolton has developed so well in terms of Fairtrade is that the town has a history going back 30 years of justice-orientated groups, like the World Development Group, Oxfam and Christian Aid,” said Jim, who has been co-ordinator in Bolton since 2002.

“The success is due to public demand. The public has seen the good ethics and justice of Fairtrade, and they are buying the products.

“Fairtrade is now also on the school syllabus, it can be taught. We’re now finding that children encourage their parents to buy Fairtrade when they see it on the shelves.

“There has been a marvellous growth in the number of restaurants, schools and workplaces taking Fairtrade on board — they want to say: ‘We are doing our bit’.”

Increasing popularity of responsible/ethical consumption — think of the explosion of all things eco-friendly, organic, recycled and sustainable — seems to have helped the Fairtrade cause along.

But, of course, it’s more than just a trendy idea that taps into the zeitgeist. Increasing numbers of people are aware of the ideas behind Fairtrade and support them.

“According to the latest MORI poll, more than 70 per cent of people recognise the Fairtrade mark, and over 60 per cent of people know what it means,” said Jim.

Even the credit crunch doesn’t seem to have dampened the appetite for Fairtrade goods.

According to The Grocer, a survey last year showed that 92 per cent of consumers are still said to be willing to pay more for an “ethical” product, while 76 per cent said they would choose a product benefiting people rather than the planet. It also said “Fairtrade” was shoppers’ favourite ethical product.

“What motivates me and everyone else involved is that every time we buy products with the Fairtrade mark, we are saving someone’s life,” said Jim.

“Growers are given a fair price instead of being driven into starvation.

“It’s part of an international campaign for greater justice in trade.

“The problems in trade are very complex, but Fairtrade allows every single one of us to do something.

“Every time we buy a product we are doing our little bit towards getting greater justice for the poorest people in the world.”