Grace Redpath, a sophomore member of Fair Trade Gonzaga, opened the club’s info-session last week by asking if anyone could prove that no human was exploited in the manufacturing of their clothing.
No hands from the audience went up.
Redpath, along with sophomores Emily Cook, Delaney Uhlman and Isabel Zimmerman, invited students to meet in Jepson to learn about the Fair Trade Gonzaga club’s adventures in fair trade and sustainability activism.
On March 1, the club found out it was invited to the annual Fair Trade Campaigns National Conference. That same week, the club members packed their bags and headed to Chicago to dedicate three days to discussing tangible pathways for growing the fair trade movement with fair trade farmers, workers, other students, citizen advocates and companies. Over 375 people attended the event, including 20 campus partners, meaning teams of three or more students from universities around the nation gathered to collaborate, network and share insight on struggles and successes of advocating for fair trade.
The four sophomores returned from Chicago inspired to educate the GU student body on what it means to shop for fair trade.
The World Fair Trade Organization defines fair trade as “a trading partnership that is based on dialogue, transparency and respect, and that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers.”
Fair trade products can be found anywhere. Coffee, chocolate, fruits and clothes are a few examples of easily accessible fair trade products. The COG bananas, Starbuck’s coffees and the incredibly soft peanut butter chocolate cups in the Hemmingson Marketplace are just a few on-campus fair trade products enjoyed by hundreds of students every day.
After Redpath’s question proved some students are not aware of where their clothes come from, she explained how, “that shows we have a problem. We don’t often know where our dollars are going and the effect our dollars have on people, communities and environments across the globe.”
Since returning from Chicago, Fair Trade Gonzaga is hoping to finish up its efforts in making GU a fair-trade institution.
As of this semester, the club has convinced all but three food sources on campus to sell two or more fair trade products. The three remaining are SubCo, Tres Habaneros and Fuel Cell.
“We have spoken with the retail manager for Tres Habaneros and SubCo locations and it is our understanding that the fair trade products are currently being shipped to us,” Zimmerman said.
Fuel Cell just got the final product needed, but because of time constraints it will not be available to purchase until next semester, according to Zimmerman.
The last step is to pass the Fair Trade Resolution through President Thayne McCulloh and GSBA to declare the university a fair trade institution. This step only requires McCulloh’s approval; however, the club prioritizes voicing student dedication to the cause.
This would require a GSBA senator to sponsor the resolution, followed by sending the resolution to the senate to be voted on. If majority votes to pass, then the students will have backed fair trade.
Alissa Campbell, a junior involved with Gonzaga Environmental Organization, is proud of the work her fellow sustainability advocates have done.
“The central idea around fair trade is to ensure that workers are paid fairly for the products they make, and that consumers are more aware of the transaction they are participating in each time they buy something,” she said. “As an institution that teaches its members to be active in society through leadership and service for the common good, Gonzaga is furthering its mission by supporting fair trade.”
Cook, one of the club’s members, said fair trade is successful with conscious consumerism.
“We vote with our dollar. So, fair trade means giving people the opportunity to learn how to better spend their money and to vote for human rights in a sense,” she said.
Next semester if the school becomes an official fair trade institution, the Fair Trade Gonzaga club will not stop promoting conscious consumerism.
“We will continue to educate students about fair trade. Once we get the designation we’re not going to stop telling students about it and we’ll keep up with our fair trade products in our campus outlets,” the girls explained.
As the club wraps up its work from this year, it is already planning for big events ahead. In Fall, the club has been invited to present with the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education in Spokane.