From HuffPost – Beyond Volunteering: Civic Engagement in Action

If you have not had a chance yet to read this article, I strongly encourage you to do so.  It is written by Dr. John Anderson, President of Alfred State, titled Beyond Volunteering: Civic Engagement in Action.

You might already be wondering what this post has to do with Fair Trade – and I’ll get to that.  But let’s start with Dr. Anderson’s discussion of volunteering versus civic engagement, terminology that is easily confused by students, faculty, and the general public.  I have always told students that volunteering is usually a “one and done” service event, where only a band-aid fix is applied to a problem – for example, a canned food drive.  Now volunteering is certainly important.  We NEED to have food drives to help the food insecure in our region, but a food drive does not help address or make progress in solving the issue of hunger or eliminating the need for these collection drives.  This is where I tell students civic engagement comes in, using the content knowledge and skill sets we’re learning in college and applying them to real-world situations to find sustainable solutions to local-to-international challenges.

And Dr. Anderson does a great job addressing the differences between volunteering and civic engagement.  He relates volunteering to the term “what” – what are the problems?  What can be done?  But to get to civic engagement, that’s where the “why” and “how” comes in – why does this circumstance exist?  Why is there a need?  How can action be taken to change the current situation?  How can a solution be put into place?

Students involved in Fair Trade University campaigns across the United States (and the globe!) play a strong role in civic engagement on their campuses.  These students are leading events on campus, online, and in the community.  Students are helping others make informed purchases of Fair Trade products from food to clothing to athletic equipment.  Through events such as Alta Gracia t-shirt swaps (our what and how) and Fair Trade s’mores (our what and how) to the upcoming Going Bananas for Fair Trade event (being organized by an entire course on campus), my own Penn State Brandywine students are learning that education and awareness can lead to advocacy and the change they want to see.

Imagine how much further we could move the Fair Trade movement with even more civic engagement on college campuses.  Thank you, Dr. Anderson, for reminding us that we need to continue to ask “why.”

Contributed by Dr. Laura Guertin


Bandi Mbubi: Demand a fair trade cell phone

Your mobile phone, computer and game console have a bloody past — tied to tantalum mining, which funds the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Drawing on his personal story, activist and refugee Bandi Mbubi gives a stirring call to action. (Filmed at TEDxExeter, LINK to this TEDx Talk).

You can also visit the website of Bandi’s organization, Congo Calling, to learn more.

Whole Foods Supports Child Slavery?

Most people that follow the Fair Trade movement know that Hershey’s chocolate  has been accused of using child slave labor for a long time now. Many petitions have been aimed towards trying to change this. Recently Hershey’s has made  a new brand of chocolate, trying to appeal towards their ethically minded buyers, that wears the Rainforest Alliance symbol called Dagoba. Many thought that Hershey’s was taking a step in the right direction, until it was discovered that even this more ethical version of their chocolate bar, along with another Hershey’s side brand named Scharffenberger, was using child slave labor.

As a response many markets and buyers of Dagoba and Scharffenberger boycotted the products and have signed petitions trying to change this. When Whole Foods was offered a spot on the list to petition Hershey’s crimes many were shocked when they withheld their support. Whole Foods is a large advocate for the Fair Trade movement, even having their certification labels call Whole Trade. Fair Trade fans are now asking where Whole Foods loyalties lie, with ethically minded consumers and poorly treated workers around the world, or big companies who use slave labor?

No one can disregard everything Whole Foods has done so far to benefit Fair Trade, but it makes one wonder if they honestly believe in these ethical practices, or if they see them as a convenient vehicle for more sales.

Voice your opinion here.

Contributed by Louis Donaghue, Fair Trade Intern

At the “local” Noodles & Company – China Mist Iced Teas

This is a post our Penn State followers in State College will enjoy!  This summer, during one of my trips to State College, I noticed a Noodles & Company under construction and getting ready to open at the intersection of College Ave and Burrowes Street.  Seeing as the only Noodles & Company in Pennsylvania is in Pittsburgh, I’m excited this restaurant is moving across the state.  One of my former students, Abbey Dufoe, the first student to do an independent study on Fair Trade at Penn State Brandywine (now she’s at the University Park campus), told me that she was able to score a ticket to a pre-opening party to sample some of the food.  While she was feasting on her pasta, she sent me this DM in Twitter:

Leave it to Abbey, always having her eye out for Fair Trade items!  I asked her what brand the beverage is, and she tweeted back:

This is a brand I’m not familiar with, and there is nothing on the Noodles & Company website about serving Fair Trade items.  I wonder where else this beverage exists, especially in southeast PA.  But it is nice for us to now be aware of another Fair Trade beverage, China Mist Iced Tea.  If you spot this brand, please post a comment and let us know!

– Contributed by Dr. Laura Guertin

Weis Market has (limited) Fair Trade food items

Recently, a local grocery store closed and a new Weis Market opened in its place (you can find it on our Google Map in Conshohocken).  I remember shopping at Weis when I was an undergraduate student at Bucknell University in central PA, but I had not seen one here in southeastern PA.  So, I decided to check it out to look for – of course – Fair Trade food items on the shelves!

At first, I was disappointed – I didn’t see any Fair Trade certified bananas, baking chocolate chips, or tea.  Finally, I turned down an aisle and I see this:
Coffee at Weis Grocery Store

Not only did I see the Fair Trade logo that I had been looking for, but it was on a store brand!  Then, I came across some Green Mountain K-cups, Honest Tea, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Larabar bars, and Green & Black’s organic chocolate.  The selection of Fair Trade food items is probably the most limited I have seen in an area grocery store, but at least there are some Fair Trade items on the shelves.  Hopefully, in the near future, Weis Markets will be proud of their Fair Trade products, do a better job promoting the ones they have, and add even more for consumers to purchase.

– Contributed by Dr. Laura Guertin


2012 Fairly Educated Conference Proposes Fair Trade for All Colleges

Hello everyone! My name is Louie Donaghue, Penn State Brandywine’s Fair Trade Intern for the fall semester. I am a Letters, Arts & Science (LAS) major in my senior year with a minor in Environmental Inquiry. I will be regularly updating the blog posts and organizing events with Dr. Guertin. I want to thank Sarah DeMartino for starting off the Fair Trade Intern program so well and I am excited to pick up where she left off.

My first blog post is going to focus on an outcome from the 2012 Fairly Educated Conference held in Australia. At the conference, Fairly Educated announced the start of a new campaign to have every college campus in Australia and New Zealand reach Fair Trade status by the end of 2015. The first step in the Fairly Educated plan was to launch a petition asking Australasian Campuses Towards Sustainability and the Tertiary Access Group, the two most influential education groups in the area, to give them full support in their mission. Here is a link to the petition

Is Fairly Educated’s plan possible or too ambitious? I think that Fairly Educated’s plan is very ambitious and improbable, but it’s exactly what the Fair Trade movement needs right now. One of the bigger challenges that Fair Trade faces is that not enough people support it. Even if Fairly Educated fails to reach their goal and they only get half of the campuses on board, this campaign will still be a success.

If Fairly Educated does succeed would that mean something like this would be possible in America? Maybe one day, but definitely not in the next three years.

Contributed by Louis Donaghue, Fair Trade Intern