The current fair trade movement was started by students in the 1960s. The young in Europe were rebelling against established business practices that were not ethically sound. If not for the students of that time, we would not have the fair trade movement of today. Obviously, the same can be said of the young adults that will carry the movement into the future. Thanks to student organizations and initiatives, the masses are being informed about fair trade. Often, real measurable change is happening, leading to some notable victories by fair trade students.
In the United States, the main and most popular fair trade student group is United Students for Fair Trade, otherwise known as USFT. They represent more than twenty-five schools nationwide. Their stated objective is “to raise the awareness of and expand the demand for Fair Trade alternatives, both on campuses and in communities.” Transfair USA profiles some of the most notable fair trade student groups.
Luther College (Iowa)
This school probably has the largest grouping of any fair trade organization with 140 members. I go to Miami-Dade College in South Florida, the second most-enrolled school in the country, and none of the organizations have more than 100 members. To me, 140 is a miraculous accomplishment. There is obvious strength in numbers, because the Students Encouraging Economic Development Through Solidarity (long for SEEDS) have been doing some amazing things in the student activism world. They have had two Fair Trade Fests, a silent auction and public awareness campaign. They’ve also sponsored a group of professors to explain the concept of Fair Trade and other economic complexities, and to keep the club ongoing sell fair trade goods from shirts to handicrafts.
University of California, San Diego
The students at the University of California in San Diego have done some awe-inspiring things when it comes to promoting fair trade. They were able to convince an advisory board that a new cafe being built on the campus feature one Fair Trade coffee, espresso, chocolate, and tea variety. The members have also created a coffee cart with fair trade-only goods that are competitive in price with the campus offerings. University of Houston fair traders have done similar things, but not exactly with as much impact.
Rice University (Texas)
In addition to the principles of fair trade, Rice University in Houston also support the beliefs of cooperatives. Rice Coffeehouse, a completely student-managed affair is not only cooperative, but the only coffee it sells is organic Fair Trade coffee. They also offer “Office Packs” so that the employees of the university can have coffee delivered to them.
This is a short tease of the many schools doing interesting fair trade initiatives on campus. If you’d like to start an organization at your U.S school, I recommend contacting the USFT at one of their regional offices.
United Students for Fair Trade: http://usft.org/index.php?p=/Home/
Transfair USA on your campus: http://transfairusa.org/content/support/campus.php