The consumer culture in the western world has caused a number of people to reach a high level of concern for natural resource depletion and labor corruption. Large corporations with major factories in developing countries are able to find loopholes in responsible business and ethical practices.
Many people have rallied behind the ceasing of abusive labor policies and damaging waste and production methods.
The term “Fair Trade” can be seen on a handful of products found in grocery stores, and an even larger number of consumables found in food co-ops or local grocers. It is a commonly heard phrase, but also a commonly misunderstood one. The emphasis of “Fair Trade” is on production companies and an assurance that they will practice moral and “fair” trading methods.
According to Fair Trade USA the term means; “Fair Trade goods are just that. Fair. From far-away farms to your shopping cart, products that bear [Fair Trade] come from farmers and workers who are justly compensated.”
This means that when a grower in a developing country produces a good, instead of being undercut or taken advantage of, “Fair Trade” assures that the independent farmer or manufacturer is properly paid off for their work.
As the concern for production corruption grows, groups across the country are forming to make a difference within their own realms to combat the problem.
Here at Minnesota State University, Mankato one of those groups has formed of students with Fair Trade and other environmental concerns in mind.
Students For Sustainability is comprised of MSU students who address topics such as Fair Trade in their meetings and doings. SFS currently has two events planned to inform students about the issue of Fair Trade.
On Oct. 6 at 5 p.m. SFS will be screening the film Birdsong & Coffee, A Wake Up Call. The movie serves as an introduction to the concept of Fair Trade, and gives background for the cause of the movement. It gives examples of how farmers in developing countries can benefit from business practices that work in humane and fair ways.
The screening is free, and all who are concerned with society’s current consumption fixation are encouraged to come.
The second event showcases speaker Lee Wallace. Wallace is the owner of Peace Coffee, a company many may be familiar with when buying high-end coffee at grocery stores.
Peace Coffee is a Minneapolis based coffee distributor that operates completely in Fair Trade practices. It’s a successful example of the potentials of running a business with production and consumption ethics in mind. The presentation will focus on the merging of business and the ideas of sustainability.
Danielle Alinea, president of Students For Sustainability, is pushing for a change in MSU’s current consumption and awareness.
“The big goal with these events is to transform MSU into a Fair Trade university,” said Alinea.
Currently, MSU sells Fair Trade coffee at Jazzman’s Café and other locations throughout campus. Alinea states that this is a good start, but more can be done.
“University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh is currently a Fair Trade University,” Alinea said. “It’s about having a certain percent of goods that are Fair Trade on campus. For example; food, coffee, sports equipment used, and even the clothes and books available for sale on-campus.”
One of the goals of SFS is to bring MSU to a level of responsible consumption.
“We’re trying to work with food services to get local foods used in the cafeterias,” said Alinea. “This would put money back into community, as well as provide higher quality meals to the student population.”
The events that SFS are holding concerning Fair Trade are leading into The Mankato Area Fair Trade Town Initiative’s work throughout the past two years. MAFTTI has worked as a local coalition to bring Mankato and North Mankato into a Fair Trade Town status, this is the same idea as what SFS is doing, only on a citywide scale.
To become involved in the work SFS is doing stop by one of their meetings, which are held Thursdays at 5 p.m. in CSU 204, 203 or 202, or email them at MSUStudentsForSustainability@gmail.com.