Fair Trade: the Real Deal

You’ve probably seen “Bucket Boy” without even knowing who he is. I’ll give you a hint: he ensures that you’re spending your money on fair wages for farm workers every time you buy things like coffee, tea, chocolate, and bananas. He’s the logo for Fair Trade, an international trading partnership guaranteeing that producers have access to the global market and earn a fair price for their products so they can feed their families and send their children to school. It’s a form of sustainable development and is one approach to providing a long-term solution to poverty. So what does this have to do with UVM? To begin with, over 300 college campuses around the country offer Fair Trade products, several of which serve 100% Fair Trade coffee. President Fogel stated in his 2005 convocation address that UVM ranks second only to Harvard among institutions considered leaders in the environmental field. If we want to maintain this reputation, it’s important that we promote Fair Trade. Because more than 80% of Fair Trade Certified coffee is also shade-grown under the natural canopy of the rainforest, it protects biodiversity by preventing deforestation and habitat destruction. Most Fair Trade farms are also certified organic because the extra income from a fair wage provides the capital needed to invest in organic farming. The countless social benefits of Fair Trade are inextricably rooted in environmental principles, which makes these products ideal for an institution that wishes to remain innovative in the environmental realm (www.transfairusa.com). Although UVM still has a long way to go, student groups and Dining Services are working together to provide a majority of Fair Trade coffee on campus. In January of 2005, only 10% of coffee sold here was Fair Trade, and by May that percentage had increased to 50%. This change occurred because the students demanded it. Over the past year, Students for Peace and Global Justice (SFPGJ) has done a lot of education and promotion surrounding the issue of Fair Trade, including tabling events, concerts, and even successfully requesting that the President’s Office pledge serve only Fair Trade coffee at its events. SFPGJ hasn’t slowed down this semester, working toward having 90% of the coffee on campus be Fair Trade by the end of 2005. October is National Fair Trade Month and to participate, Fair Trade Week at UVM will take place Oct. 24-28. 100% of the Green Mountain Coffee provided on campus will be Fair Trade. Look for members of SFPGJ in the dining halls and ask them about Fair Trade. There will be a Fair Trade clothing swap in the CWP rotunda at 7:30 on Wednesday Oct. 26, so bring clothing and anything else to trade in for something else. On Saturday Oct. 29, Slade Hall will hold a Fair Trade-themed concert. If you really want to be involved, join SFPGJ every Thursday at 6 PM in Lafayette 311. University Dining Services (UDS) goes through 13,000 pounds of Green Mountain coffee per year; that’s no small amount. If you’re convinced that your own coffee drinking habits don’t make a difference, think again. UDS is committed to serving the students, and they listen to what we want. If you fill out comment cards in the dining halls and use your dollars to support Fair Trade over conventional coffee, it will show UDS that offering more Fair Trade will be profitable and supportive of the students. If UVM buys more Fair Trade, producers will receive thousands of dollars more to lead a dignified life, with no more than a few cents extra on your end. 1,500 UVM students last year signed our petition for 100% fair trade on campus; this year we challenge the entire student body to take the Fair Trade pledge.