Link to podcast (MP3 file)
The Penn State Brandywine Fair Trade TrailBlazers have a few helpful tips on staying in the loop with information about the Fair Trade movement. Penn State Brandywine recently became declared a Fair Trade University, and it was very important for us TrailBlazers to understand the growing movement and educate our campus. There is a lot going on with Fair Trade, and we had some hesitations and reservations about how to proceed in deciding what was best for our campus. Here are some tools we felt were helpful for learning about Fair Trade as the movement changes.
Starting out, we didn’t know much about Fair Trade, so our first step was to read! We read lots of articles about Fair Trade to acquire the necessary background information, and here are a few good websites and books for you to check out. We found the Fair Trade Resource Network’s website (fairtraderesource.org) very helpful and up to date with everything happening in the Fair Trade world, along with Fair Trade.org.uk, and the Fair Trade section under the Environment category of The Guardian website (guardiannews.com). We also found the books Fighting The Banana Wars and other Fairtrade Battles by Harriet Lamb, Fair Trade by Jacqueline DeCarlo, Global Girlfriends: How One Mom Made It Her Business to Help Women in Poverty Worldwide by Stacey Edgar, Brewing Justice: Fair Trade Coffee, Sustainability, and Survival by Daniel Jaffee, and Coffee and Community by Sarah Lyon to be very helpful in understanding Fair Trade.
Our second step was to contact different organizations involved with Fair Trade. There is a lot of different activity and viewpoints toward Fair Trade at the moment, so talking to a wide variety of organizations helped us greatly in trying to understand the whole picture. Everybody we spoke to was helpful, enthusiastic, and had a wealth of knowledge and insight. A few good groups to contact are United Students for Fair Trade, Divine Chocolate, Fair Trade Towns, Fair Trade USA, Equal Exchange, Fair Trade Federation, Alta Gracia, and Ten Thousand Villages. There is a plethora of other groups you can get in contact with, and we encourage you to do so! Don’t forget that if you cannot bring a speaker to campus, there is always the opportunity to Skype and exchange information via email.
We also made a point of contacting local Fair Trade towns and schools. Support is crucial when starting out on the Fair Trade path, and we are lucky enough to be located in the town of Media, Pennsylvania, America’s first Fair Trade Town, and to have Penncrest High School, America’s first Fair Trade public high school, right down the road. We were also able to talk to Temple University about Fair Trade and what it is doing to support and bring Fair Trade to its campus. Having other groups to talk to helped us to see what has already been done and where we could go. These institutions were both insightful and encouraging! If you and your university are seeking to support Fair Trade, ask other schools and towns in your area what they are doing to support Fair Trade and start networking early. Even if they are not designated to be a Fair Trade school or town, they still might have initiatives supporting Fair Trade.
Lastly, perhaps one of the most powerful messages we took away from our discussions with these organizations, schools, and towns, was to ask questions and hold people accountable. It is important to understand how Fair Trade is growing and to ask the right questions. Know what Fair Trade means to you and don’t be afraid to ask difficult questions. If something is unclear, ask somebody about it and speak up.
We hope that you found our tips helpful. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on our Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ accounts.