Fair Trade University: new club brings awareness to CSU

As CSU’s newest student organization, Fair Trade University is looking to bring change to not only the CSU community, but to groups all over the world.

President of the fair trade student organization, Lindsey Earl, holds up one of the protest slogans "When you buy, you vote" Monday morning in Sweet Sinsations, who sell fair and ethically traded coffee. Earl and her student organization believe that our buying power as consumers has political power that can change unethical business practices.
President of the fair trade student organization, Lindsey Earl, holds up one of the protest slogans “When you buy, you vote” Monday morning in Sweet Sinsations, who sell fair and ethically traded coffee. Earl and her student organization believe that our buying power as consumers has political power that can change unethical business practices.

The club’s president and founder Lindsey Earl hopes she and fellow members can organize projects around campus to help CSU students become more informed about fair trade and about the products they buy.

“It is important in a capitalist society that people buy things, but they don’t always know where those things come from,” Earl said. “If it’s made unethically then you are supporting that. By looking at chocolate and coffee, people don’t look at how it is made, and it is usually made from slave labor and that isn’t good.”

“It’s like voting,” Earl said. “I would rather put my money towards something made ethically.”

According to the World Fair Trade Organization, fair trade is defined as “a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade.”

“CSU is deliberate in wanting our community to be characterized by ethical behavior,” Suzanne Kent, Fair Trade University advisor, said. “For example: we have the code of conduct with academic integrity and multiple efforts to help the environment. It is basically ethical consumption.”

The group is planning to collaborate with the CSU Bookstore to encourage the vendor to buy their clothing from Alta Gracia, a company out of the Dominican Republic that makes fair trade clothing.

According to Earl, schools like Notre Dame and Yale have similar arrangements with their bookstores, aided by the fact that the clothing wouldn’t cost more than what is already being sold.

“When wages are low [in other countries], people live in poverty, this can cause potential social unrest, violence and health problems,” Kent said. “These problems can impact us. For example, social unrest is a variable in criminal networks, drug trafficking, and gangs.”

“Where there is an increase in poverty, there is an increase in vulnerability to be pulled into these things,” Kent said. “But with fair trade there are alternatives that can have implications for people in the U.S.”

Offering fair trade in an intellectual setting, like a college campus, is important for students, said Fair Trade University advisor Versha Anderson.

“I think once the organization has developed a good group of members and educated the campus on fair trade issues, they will be better equipped to begin to implement change through awareness and education on the campus,” Anderson said.

“I believe offering fair trade options is important to better make students aware of different social issues beyond their university,” Anderson said. “And to make them think more about the global impacts of their everyday purchases.”

According to Earl, this club will have more of an impact for developing countries because of the large impact CSU’s community would make by giving money to companies that help fair trade workers, ultimately helping to develop the country.

In the future, Earl hopes that the club continues to grow and educate students about fair trade, even after she graduates.

“I am excited to make a difference,” Earl said. “I want [Fair Trade University] members to know that their time at CSU was used doing and not just learning. We learn [in class] theories on how to make a change, and now we turn that theory into action, and I like knowing that I changed things and made a positive impact.”