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Something You Can Do: Fair Trade

October 29, 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving break sure was nice.  It’s a great chance to relax and think about all of the blessings in our lives:  family, friends, education, a warm house…  Or it’s a chance to listen to our relatives complain about the economy and argue about politics.  For me, it’s always a little of both, and I’ve gotten to the point where I can’t just sit back and let Uncle So-and-So bash on current events any longer.  Follow this with Black Friday and I found a real conundrum; what is happening in a world where Thanksgiving is cut short by super-sales starting at 10:00pm?  (So much for relaxing with family or reveling in a food coma.  Just thinking about the negative aspects of American consumerism gives me indigestion).  Alas, I did have the chance to stand up for us “lazy college kids who just stay at home and mooch off their parents” (a debate that popped up in the doctor’s waiting room), but amidst the plethora of social problems, what’s a college kid to do?

Luckily there is something we can do:  support Fair Trade!  What is fair trade and why should I bother with it?  Fair Trade is the certification given to companies and their products which conduct business in just and peaceful ways that respect the rights of workers.  It’s a system of commerce that utilizes globalization for good.  According to the Commission for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC Commission), “fair trade is a growing international trading partnership based on dialogue, transparency and respect that seeks greater equality in international trade for the poor.  It contributes to sustainability by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers.”& #160; These aren’t just buzzwords either; these are honest to goodness people making good quality products in sustainable ways.  Think about it, wouldn’t it be great to know for sure that the things you spend your money on came from good companies with sustainable, respectful practices?

I have been personally impacted by fair trade through an unlikely source:  my favorite actress and fashionista Emma Watson.  I was introduced to her through her role as Hermione in the Harry Potter movie series.  Being the obsessed fan that I am I poked around her website and found that she has worked with a fair trade clothing company called People Tree and even did some designing for them.  I watched a little video in which Emma visits a fair trade factory and then talks a bit about her experience.  Needless to say, Emma’s coolness level was through the roof at this point and I was totally on board with fair trade.  Now my appreciation for fair trade isn’t solely because of Miss Watson’s promotion—I’m not that easily influenced by celebrities.  (Or at least I like to think I’m not).  I have also visited fair trade Ten Thousand Villages stores and learned about it through Dominican University’s Fair Trade Marketplace (which, by the way, is this week).

If you are intrigued I would encourage you to come to this year’s Fair Trade Marketplace!  It will be on Dominican’s campus a few times this week and will feature beautiful items for sale.  Vendors will include Fair Earth, a company that sells goods from East Africa, Maya Works, which features products made by Mayan artisans in Guatemala, Greenola, a business that sells scarves, jewelry and other accessories made by women in Bolivia, and Global Homemade Hope, a group based in Park Ridge, Illinois that has connections with East Africa and Colombia.

Linger in the Aula Auditorium at the Priory Campus before and after the Siena Center lecture on Tuesday, November 29.  Check out the items for sale between classes on Wednesday, November 30 in the Parmer Atrium from 10:00am-1:30pm or on Thursday, December 1 in the Lewis Link and Alcove from 11:30am-3:00pm.  Or if you are planning to go to the Canadian Brass Holiday Concert you can do some fair trade shopping before and after the show on Saturday, December 3 from 6:30-10:30pm in the Slate Lobby of the Performing Arts Center.  

Check out the Fair Trade Marketplace and give fair trade a shot!  Your purchases make a difference, so this Christmas season, why not make a positive impact?  I already have plans to buy my brother one of those knit hats with the tassels from Greenola (he’s really into those but refuses to get rid of his shrunken old one…but I digress).  Here’s hoping some fair trade goodness will ease my hectic holiday and social issue indigestion.  It’s the least this concerned college kid can do.

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