Preparing for World Fair Trade Day (hopefully, our Declaration Day!)

The Fair Trade TrailBlazers will have a table at Middletown Community Day, held at the Penn State Brandywine campus on Saturday, May 12.  It just so happens that May 12 is also World Fair Trade Day, and hopefully, the day our campus is declared with Fair Trade University status!

At Middletown Community Day, we will have a table with educational information and brochures about Fair Trade, as well as samples of Equal Exchange chocolate (the mini organic dark chocolate bars) to hand out.  But with over 2,000 people expected to stop by campus on this day, we have alot to prepare!  After some marathon sessions of cutting and taping (such as the scenes in the photos below), we think we are ready.  Of course, we are still waiting on pins and needles for the verdict on our Fair Trade University application…

Preparing for World Fair Trade Day!

Preparing for World Fair Trade Day!

Contributed by Dr. Laura Guertin


Spreading the Campaign with a Little Help from ENGL 419

During our Fair Trade journey, we worked with two students from the English 419 class, Jason Mandell and Jeff Beecher. Both of these students were very dedicated in helping our push for being a Fair Trade University campus. Both Jason and Jeff attended the Divine Chocolate seminar by Amanda White.  On May 17th and 18th, we had our Fair Trade T-Shirt Exchange and we asked Jeff what he thought about the event. Jeff responded, “The exchange was very productive. I liked how the word got out to students and they understood what was going on and really took a liking to it.” Jeff also mentioned that, “The swap was beneficial for our campus and it was very organized by the students and Dr. Guertin.”

Then we caught up with Jason and asked him more about Fair Trade. We asked him questions such as: what are your thoughts about Fair Trade,what has it been like to write about it, and would he agree that Fair Trade would benefit for our campus? Jason enthusiastically responded: “It’s a very interesting concept that can result in a beneficial cause, and form a trade between power countries and developing countries, a way to bridge the gap.” And when we asked if Fair Trade University status would it be good for our campus, Jason responded, ” Yes, it would be very good for our campus. We are able to educate the student and faculty on the cause and why it is beneficial to our community and campus and could spread to other PSU campus’ and help the Fair Trade movement.”

Thanks again for the help from Jason Mandell and Jeff Beecher of Professor Donna Talis’ English 419 class for their press release, recruitment letter, and overall support for Fair Trade.

Contributed by Joe Sweeny


T-Shirt swap was a huge success!

The Penn State Brandywine first Fair Trade T-Shirt Exchange was a huge success. We exchanged 72 t-shirts and received 237 and counting in return! This t-shirt swap could not have been done without all the excellent students in our class, our hard working teacher, and all the staff and faculty around campus.

Fair Trade T-shirt Exchange - Day 2

The Penn State Fair Trade t-shirts were purchased from Alta Gracia, which is a fair trade company located in the Dominican Republic, with a grant from the Student Allocations Fee Committee. All the students in the class and our professor Dr. G did a wonderful job preparing for our t-shirt swap. We put together brochures, a list of our URLs for our social networks, and posters to promote Fair Trade and our t-shirt swap. For the swap the rules were simple. You could bring in any number of t-shirts as long as they were slightly used and wearable, and in exchange the swapper gets one Penn State Fair Trade t-shirt. The swap was held on Wednesday and Thursday of this past week and was held indoors and outdoors. On Wednesday our turnout was fairly small because most of the students and staff were not aware that the swap was going on, despite the flyers and emails. A lot of students were excited about the swap when they saw it and told us that they would be back on Thursday with a t-shirt. On Thursday the swap skyrocketed through the roof in popularity. Students and staff did a great job of contributing.

This swap made our movement even more interesting then ever. We had fun with this swap but also did a great job of getting the word out to the students and staff. On behalf of our ENVST400W class we would like to thank everyone that made this possible and we would also like to throw a special thank you to Alta Gracia and Joe Buskirk from our Penn State Brandywine bookstore, donating 37 t-shirts from the bookstore himself, for making this swap a huge success.

Contributed by Joe Sweeny

How to host a Fair Trade t-shirt swap!

The Fair Trade t-shirt exchange at Penn State Brandywine was a huge success! During our journey toward becoming a Fair Trade University, we have worked toward raising awareness of the Fair Trade movement and our efforts on campus. As part of the process, we’ve committed to hosting several Fair Trade events on campus each semester. Our first big event was hosting Amanda White from Divine Chocolate (read more about it here), and our second event was Wednesday and Thursday’s Fair Trade T-shirt exchange. We hope that our experience can help other campuses learn how to best host a Fair Trade T-shirt Swap!

Fair Trade T-shirt Exchange - Day 1

Aimee Ralph, showing some Penn State pride! (photo via Fair Trade at Penn State Brandywine)

Our t-shirt swap was a two-day event where students could bring in a gently used t-shirt to exchange for a brand new, Fair Trade, Penn State t-shirt from Alta Gracia Apparel. Our 72 Fair Trade tees quickly disappeared, and we received 237 tees for charity in exchange! All of the donated tees were given to local Planet Aid drop boxes. We chose Planet Aid because we felt that their mission of global sustainability and recycling clothing complements the missions of the Fair Trade movement.

Here are a few of the important lessons we learned about hosting a t-shirt swap:

  1. Get the word out! Be sure to effectively use your campus’s social media and other forms of making announcements to make sure that everyone knows about the event. Everyone wants a free t-shirt (which is a huge draw for spreading the Fair Trade message), but on our campus, not everyone knew about the swap. If we had spread the word a bit better, we could have made a bigger impact.
  2. Set your date early, hold the event later. Setting the date early in the semester will help your committee spread the word, so that a t-shirt swap later in the semester will be successful.
  3. Apply for funding. You might be surprised at the funds your school will provide for you. We not only got our 72 t-shirts donated (with the help of our campus’s student activity fee), but we also got our student government association to provide funding for us for future activities on campus.
  4. Students first! If you are doing a two-day event, dedicate the first day to students only. On the second day, set aside the first half of your event for students and then give staff and faculty the opportunity to swap for a tee. Unfortunately, we ran out so quickly that some students who wanted to participate didn’t get a chance to snag a Fair Trade tee!
  5. Have an elevator speech & Fair Trade literature. Some students were confused as to why we were collecting old t-shirts to donate to charity when we had a slew snazzy new shirts to give out for free. “Why don’t you just donate those?” one student asked us. We realized that although we had a brochure that explained why we were doing the swap, and our posters all said something about Fair Trade, the cause of the event was lost on a lot of people. Be prepared with a 30 seconds-or-less “elevator speech” for the students who want to get their hands on free swag. Why are you doing this swap? What is Fair Trade? What are you doing on campus to promote the movement? In addition to the brochure, we handed out a half-sheet of paper that included links to our social media outlets and petition on

Fair Trade T-shirt Exchange - Day 1
Joe gives a Fair Trade tee to Director of Student Affairs, Dr. Matthew Shupp, while Sarah gets footage of the TrailBlazers in action (via Fair Trade at Penn State Brandywine)

Fair Trade T-shirt Exchange - Day 2 Bryan and Sara, packing up the donated tees… all 237 of them! (via Fair Trade at Penn State Brandywine)

Fair Trade T-shirt Exchange - Day 2

Sara talks to Matthew Bodek, Instructional Design Specialist on campus (via Fair Trade at Penn State Brandywine)

Fair Trade T-shirt Exchange - Day 2

The whole lot! Thanks PSU Brandywine, for your support! (via Fair Trade at Penn State Brandywine)

With a campus of about 1600 students, we were able to give away 72 t-shirts without a problem. For campuses with a larger student body, make sure you order enough tees! This is an event that will definitely bring success to your movement on campus.

Contributed by Sara Neville.

Presenting at EURECA 2012

The Fair Trade TrailBlazers presented a poster at the campus undergraduate research symposium EURECA on April 17, 2012.  The abstract and poster were a collaborative effort, with TrailBlazer Bryan Marton (pictured below) representing the group at EURECA.  The text of the abstract is included in this post.  Click here to view a PDF of the poster.
Bryan at EURECA

Commuting to the Grounds of Fair Trade University Status: Achieving Leadership in Penn State’s Fair Trade Movement

Bryan Marton, Sarah DeMartino, Louis Donaghue, Stephen Hurwitz, Sara Neville, John Ramaika, Joseph Sweeny, Dr. Laura Guertin (Faculty Advisor)
Environmental Inquiry Program,,,,,,,,

Fair Trade is a global social movement for producers, consumers, communities, and the environment.  The purchase of Fair Trade certified products serves to protect the planet, build sustainable business, empower women, support education, fight poverty, and provide health care.  Universities are strategically situated to harness the power of higher education to raise awareness about the benefits of Fair Trade to small-scale producers and workers. Schools can be honored with Fair Trade University status by embedding Fair Trade principles within administrative policy and the social fabric of the academic community.  Fair Trade University (FTU) status is appropriate for Penn State Brandywine, with the institution’s land-grant mission and commitment to global issues.  Designated a FTU allows the campus to solidify local connections with the nation’s first Fair Trade Town (Media, PA) and first Fair Trade public high school (Penncrest).

Students enrolled in the Spring 2012 Senior Seminar in Environmental Studies (ENVST 400W) set out to complete the process for becoming a Fair Trade University.  Students were required to consult with various offices on campus, including business services and the bookstore.  Students needed to draft documents for the FTU proposal, including a resolution, procurement policy, and future plans for campus academic and extra-curricular integration.  No textbook or curricular materials existed for the students to work from; the process to become a FTU required much critical thinking, inquiry, networking, and leadership.

After organizing two Fair Trade events and presenting to various campus audiences, the students have submitted the Fair Trade University application for review.  Penn State Brandywine looks forward to joining six other universities designated with FTU status and being the first Penn State campus with this honor.  Future goals include expanding campus student involvement and sharing the process and products with other Penn State campuses and universities, being a leader locally and nationally.