Going Back to College
One of the first things that pops into your head when thinking about fair trade is probably not: college. But it should be. More and more campuses are becoming involved in the fair trade movement whether it is by becoming a fair trade university, or simply choosing to sell fair trade coffee instead. Either way, it is making an impact on not only the students but our future.
The students are learning to make impactful choices and want their money to be spent the same way it was earned, honorably.
This week HandCrafting Justice held a sale at Manhattan College. They became New York City’s first fair trade university back in 2012 and promote the mission of fair trade with such enthusiasm. The mission of Fair Trade Colleges and Universities is “to inspire institutions of higher learning to support the Fair Trade movement in its efforts to seek equity in trade and promote sustainable development. Fair Trade Colleges and Universities harness the power of higher education in the United States to both raise awareness among students, faculty, and staff about the benefits of Fair Trade, and leverage the significant institutional buying power to purchase Fair Trade products. Achieving Fair Trade status means securing institutional commitment to embed Fair Trade principles and practices within administrative/procurement policy and the social and intellectual fabric of academic communities.” Professors, staff and students alike at Manhattan College recognize the human faces behind products and seem dedicated to support and advocate for those who have become marginalized by consumerism. The energy we were greeted with throughout the sale was infectious and inspiring.
As we were engaging in conversation with various students, faculty, and staff there seemed to be a wide range of responses towards the phrase “fair trade.” Many students were familiar with the concept, while some trickled in to the sale room unsure- quite possibly afraid they were going to get bombarded by hippies… hardly. Whether new to the realm of fair trade or a certified expert, it is a lovely thing to be able to have discussions. One professor of economics thought for the quality of our jewelry, the prices were too low. On the other hand another professor and I talked about the general market demand for low prices. It was great to show students that the theories on paper in textbooks can oftentimes be challenged through practice in real life situations. I was not sure what to expect from a Fair Trade Certified Campus. I, however, was blown away by the amount of enthusiasm many of the students have for our mission. Even on a college budget, the majority of our customers were students. Not only did they want to purchase a cute scarf or a pound of coffee to help them study during midterms, they wanted to purchase with intention- they showed interest in both the products and the people who made them.
We are very fortunate to be able to collaborate with such wonderful people.