2012 Fair Trade Campaigns Conference – Day 3

The third and final day of the Fair Trade Campaigns Conference in Chicago – filled with more great conversation and nervous conference attendees that were not sure if they would be able to leave Chicago (thanks to Hurricane Sandy).

The third day started with a Producer Panel, where banana farmers and artisans talked about how Fair Trade makes an impact in their communities.  Felipe Echeverri Zapata and Jorge William Restrepo represented Bananeras de Uraba in Columbia, Hannah Dodoo represented Global Mamas in Ghana, and a third panelist Andreas represented Minga Fair Trade Imports.  The group shared some fascinating information, such as the challenges of climate change and El Nino causing a loss of up to 30% of banana production, and shared some inspiring quotes, such as Hannah Dodoo telling us that “if you train a man, you train an individual, but if you train a woman, you change a nation” (I’m guessing she based the quote on this African proverb).

The Producer Panel ended with the panelists being asked about what they saw as future challenges for Fair Trade.  Hannah stated that Fair Trade must be embraced in all businesses, with continued purchasing from Global Mamas.  Andreas said that he did not see a challenge because many people know what the tagua is, but he stated what he really needs are better designs of products.  Jorge ended with the comment that those who market Fair Trade products are still “missing,” and the system still needs to be much more transparent.  It was inspiring to hear how Fair Trade has had a positive impact on their lives, and how they believe that this impact will continue in the future.

For the morning breakout session, I attended the Building a Strong & Sustainable Committee talk by Gwendolyn Tedeschi and Ben Thomas.  We at Penn State Brandywine certainly have built our committee, but sustaining a committee when most of our students leave after the first two years is a challenge for the future I am worried about.  The session had some great discussion about making sure the committee is diverse across students groups, faculty, administrators, food service and the campus bookstore.  There were also suggestions to add staff and alumni.  Finding an institutional anchor is key, as well as giving each student an important task/responsibility with the movement.  I am excited and nervous about the future of the Penn State TrailBlazers, but this information is great for me to bring back to my group as to what we need to keep focused with, and information that I can share with students at other campuses looking to form their own Fair Trade movements.

Our working lunch had everyone split into two groups – the Fair Trade Towns people in one room, and the Fair Trade Colleges & University people in another room.  I was excited to see Parker Townley, coordinator of Fair Trade Colleges & Universities, show us a new tool kit for campaigns looking to be approved, and I had some great conversation with the students from Penn State – University Park in attendance at the conference as to what they could do to keep the movement moving forward at their campus.  Having more online resources available should better assist all campaigns, especially the University Park group.

Parker ended his session with the “Let’s Get to Work!” challenge.  Parker is asking all university campaigns to create change by moving our campaigns forward by major steps.  We are asked to either increase the number of our social media followers, add more Fair Trade products or host two educational events, or reach out to two new groups to form new partnerships.  We are totally going for the social media challenge (stay tuned for a future blog post about this!).

The final session of the meeting was a closing keynote by Kirsten Moller, the co-founder of Global Exchange.  If you ever get a chance to hear her speak, it is a must!  She is so passionate about social, economic and environmental justice.  And her sharing of the Raise The Bar, Hershey! campaign energized the entire room.  I think her take home message was that we have done great work, but there is still much more to do and we can’t sit back and assume it will get done by others.

I think it is going to take me some time to digest all of the information and interactions from this conference.  I do not think that I have yet realized all of the impacts this conference has made on myself as an individual and the impacts it will make on my students, my campus, and possibly, even on the larger Fair Trade movement.  I wonder what I will be blogging about a year from now….

Contributed by Dr. Laura Guertin


2012 Fair Trade Campaigns Conference – Day 2

Day 2 of the Fair Trade Campaigns Conference, our first full day of Fair Trade connections and conversations!  It has been exciting to be in Chicago, the second largest city in the world to be a Fair Trade City.

The morning began with a Panel Discussion: Building Partnerships for a Stronger Movement.  The panel consisted of individuals representing Local First Chicago, Pioneer Valley Local First, UC Davis/Sodexo, UC San Diego, Five for Water Foundation, Fair Trade Towns, and myself representing the “town and gown” connection of Media Fair Trade Town and Penn State Brandywine as a Fair Trade University.  The questions from the moderators and the audience were very thought-provoking and provided new ideas to think about as well as a refresher of items and programs already in place.  Even as a participant, here are some of the takeaways I had from the panel:

  • Go back and think about the term “partnerships”… What do partnerships mean to us? How do we define “what is a partnership”?
  • Who else can we work with to think outside of the box to make a partnership?
  • Partnerships are efficient if you have the same audience
  • Have an inclusive message, such as “buy local, buy fair”
  • Brush up on “appreciative inquiry”

It was off to Breakout Session 1, where I decided to stop in to hear more about the History & Scope of Fair Trade by Jackie DeCarlo (Catholic Relief Services) and April Linton (Author, Fair Trade from the Ground Up).  The presenters started with a reflective question, when did YOU first become involved in Fair Trade?, then moved in to a true/false format of posing questions to the audience to move us through where Fair Trade has been and where it stands now.  For example… TRUE OR FALSE…. Fair Trade only encompasses products that bear certifiers’ labels.  Jackie encouraged us to check out the CRS Fair Trade website for more information and history of Fair Trade.

For the next breakout session, I headed to Bringing Fair Trade to the Classroom.  The session was filled with university students and faculty sharing ideas and strategies for bringing Fair Trade to every discipline and making it either a part of a course or an entire course.  The group shared how courses in statistics, economics, geography, agriculture, and even writing could have a Fair Trade component.  Suggestions I am going to follow up with included checking out the anti-Fair Trade literature, the scholarly articles listed on the Fair Trade Resource Network website, seeing if our campus common read program can select a Fair Trade book, and looking for K-12 curriculum for outreach purposes on the Global Exchange website.

I then grabbed my box lunch and headed to the networking session by Green Mountain Coffee.  It was interesting to hear them talk about their Fair Trade varieties of coffee, but there needs to be more consumer demand for more Fair Trade options to be available, as Green Mountain makes less money off of this line (it costs more, but those costs are not passed along to the consumer).  Several people from Fair Trade Universities and Towns also shared how they are struggling to get attendance at showings of films on Fair Trade topics, and everyone in the room suggested strategies that could be pursued (partnering with other groups to increase attendance, perhaps just call it a film festival and not a Fair Trade film festival, etc.).  In the end, we got back to a message heard several times previously at the meeting – get the word out to consumers.

The Open Forum on Fair Trade had some interesting and challenging questions, and again, some great statements to think about:

  • Fair Trade is dialogue, transparency, and respect
  • Do we ask everyone to purchase more Fair Trade, or just have all purchases be Fair Trade, and is there a difference?
  • Moving forward, let’s not agonize, let’s organize
  • If Fair Trade is all over, the world will be at peace (this statement was made by Hannah Dodoo of Global Mamas)

For the Crafting & Tasting Demonstrations, I decided to attend the jewelry making session led by Minga Fair Trade Imports.  We learned about the tagua bead (actually an ivory-like nut harvested from palm trees indigenous to South America) and got to make our own necklaces, bracelets, key chains, and earrings.  Personally, I’m not a big jewelry-wearing person, but I love my tagua necklace I made, and each time I wear it I’ll be sure to tell the Fair Trade story behind it.

Next up was Courtney Lang reviewing the Go Bananas for Fair Trade Challenge and announcing the winners.  Guess what???  Penn State Brandywine and Fair Trade Boston were declared co-champions!  (more to come about this in a future blog post…)

Fair Trade Chicago gave a keynote on their stories and lessons about Fair Trade, sharing interesting activities such as mapping out where Fair Trade items are sold, connecting Fair Trade to job creation, establishing an education program, and bringing Fair Trade fashion shows and soccer balls to young adults and kids.  Way to go, Chicago!

The final activity for the night (phew! such a long, information-packed day!) was fascinating.  I attended a talk by Felipe Echeverri Zapata and Jorge William Restrepo from Bananeras de Uraba, (English summary), who discussed the benefits of Fair Trade for banana farmers in Columbia.  The Zapata family clearly cares deeply about their workers and has done much to help them.  Alas, the realities of climate change are impacting the growth of the bananas, preventing them from providing a constant number of bananas for the market.  I will certainly be keeping an eye out for their bananas! (they recommended checking out Sam’s Club and Walmart)

Another day filled with great information and connections.  Day 3 should be just as exciting – with Hurricane Sandy coming towards the east coast for an added bit of excitement!

Contributed by Dr. Laura Guertin

2012 Fair Trade Campaigns Conference – Day 1

Today, supporters of Fair Trade gathered in Chicago, Illinois, for the Fair Trade Campaigns Conference, “Building Partnerships for a Stronger Movement.”  My flight from Philadelphia to Chicago had several people heading to the gathering, with Ira Josephs representing the Fair Trade Towns USA side of the conference for Media, PA, and Sarah DeMartino representing Fair Trade Colleges & Universities for Penn State -University Park.

Sarah DeMartino with the Nittany Lion in Millennium Park in Chicago

I won’t summarize all the details of everything that was covered Day 1, as my head is still spinning and trying to process some really powerful information that was shared with the group.

We started the evening session with a Regional Networking Dinner.  Each person was to sit at tables with other people from their geographic region (in my case, the Mid-Atlantic region).  I ended up at a table filled with Penn State – University Park students working towards making their campus a Fair Trade University.  It was great to be able to share my insights and suggestions for connections they can make at their campus.  We also met some very energetic students from Saint Joseph’s University, and we looking forward to connecting with them more in the future and hopefully collaborating on future events.  I also saw someone with a Cabrini College sweatshirt… many universities are represented at this conference!

Next came the general welcome and announcements.  It’s always great to see Billy Linstead Goldsmith and Courtney Lang get up and speak, even if it is just for logistical announcements.  Their passion really keeps the rest of us excited for all things Fair Trade.  We received a welcome from the Fair Trade city of Chicago and heard comments/saw videos from Green Mountain Coffee, where the new battle cry for everyone this weekend is “great coffee, good vibes, pass it on!”  Their videos online are a MUST SEE!

Next up – the Ben & Jerry’s Fair Trade Ice Cream Social (check out all of their Fair Trade flavors!) & Tweet-Up.  Ice cream and Twitter – you can’t go wrong with that combination!  Several people have been tweeting with the conference hashtag #FTCconf, and some people jumped in and joined Twitter this evening to get in the online conversations of 140 characters or less.

The Keynote Speaker for the evening was Kelsey Timmerman, the author of “Where Am I Wearing? A Global Tour to the Countries, Factories, and People that make our Clothes.”  I greatly appreciated how Kelsey made us all stop and think – where do the clothes we wear come from, and who made them?  What is his/her story?  The stories he shared about Solo and iPod Girl were very moving.  My favorite takeaways from his talk – use personal stories to inform others about Fair Trade, form a League of Superheros, and think carefully about being a “No Impact Man” to being someone that takes actions to have an impact.

I’m exhausted already!  But I’ll definitely be ready for Day 2 of the conference – so many more connections to make, so much more to learn!

One of my goals for Day 2 is to try to get names and email addresses of students from all the Pennsylvania schools that are here.  It’s time we do a better job partnering and networking in our own state to move Fair Trade forward.  So if you are reading this and are from a PA school, please leave a comment or email me at fairtrade@bw.psu.edu so we can add you to the list!

Contributed by Dr. Laura Guertin

Our second Alta Gracia t-shirt swap, benefitting Planet Aid

We just finished our second Alta Gracia t-shirt swap on campus, swapping gently used t-shirts for brand-new special-ordered Penn State Brandywine Alta Gracia shirts!  All collected and donated shirts are being donated to Planet Aid, a nonprofit organization that collects and recycles used clothing to protect the environment and support global sustainable development.

We are still swapping out some last-minute t-shirts, but we have given out at least 70 Alta Gracia shirts and collected over 120 to donate to Planet Aid!

Fair Trade T-shirt Swap

For those of you that follow our website, you may recall reading about our first t-shirt swap and our recommendations for how to host a t-shirt swap.  Instead of repeating that same information, we are going to add a few updates in this blog post.

  • As with our Go Bananas for Fair Trade event this semester, the students of BA 100 (Introduction to Business) helped out again in running the event.  We have to thank Professor Olear and her students once again for their enthusiasm and assistance!
  • We provided a three-fold brochure with every shirt describing Alta Gracia, Planet Aid, and included our mission and vision statements for the Fair Trade TrailBlazers.  It never hurts to put the information directly into people’s hands!
  • Tweet like crazy during your event!  We were thrilled to have @wearaltagracia and @planetaid both follow us and retweet our images and tweets during the event, as well as other groups.  This made us feel that we were really getting the word out and making an impact beyond our campus event.
  • We were disappointed that, although we sent out campus-wide emails and posted flyers, that the announcement didn’t appear on our campus website or campus Facebook page.  We have to remember to directly ask for the assistance with this publicity from our University Relations Office to get the maximum reach across the campus population.
  • And a friendly warning message… don’t assume that where you get your funding from for the t-shirts the first time will fund you a second time!  For our first t-shirt swap back in Spring 2012, our campus Student Acitivty Fee (SAF) committee funded us and even encouraged us to apply for more funding to get more shirts for a second event.  Fast forward to Fall 2012, a different SAF committee composition of students and faculty – we applied for more funding for more shirts, and we were completely denied funding – unless we became an official student club, which is not what the TrailBlazers are about (see Sarah’s post describing our campus identity).  Soooo… we had already special ordered the shirts through the campus bookstore, and the shirts were on the way, so we needed to find some funds, and fast.  We really need to thank the Laboratory for Civic Engagement for funding the student shirts, and our campus Chancellor Sophia Wisniewska for purchasing 50 shirts specifically for faculty and staff to swap.

If you would like to see more photos from our event, please visit our Flickr site.
Fair Trade T-shirt Swap

Below, some of the shirts on their way to Planet Aid!

Fair Trade T-shirt Swap

“Go Bananas for Fair Trade” Event

On October 9 and 10, we held our “Go Bananas for Fair Trade” event on our campus. On Tuesday and Wednesday we gave out Equal Exchange Fair Trade bananas in front of the Lion statue. with the help of Professor Olear’s BA 100 (Introduction to Business) students. After two days of standing in the rain we gave out all 611 of our bananas. Thanks to the Fair Trade Town committee in Media who assisted us with securing the donation of all of the bananas.

On Thursday and Friday of the same week, the staff in the cafeteria baked up some delicious Fair Trade banana pancakes and muffin specials, and sold 55 of them. We have submitted our numbers in Fair Trade Towns USA, and are now waiting to see if we won the”Go Bananas for Fair Trade” challenge. If we win, Penn State Brandywine can select to receive free Ben and Jerry’s ice cream for a year! So keep your fingers crossed for us.

Here is a picture of our beautiful setup for the banana hand out.

And here are our two awesome banana suits that worked really hard to give out bananas.

Contributed by Louis Donaghue, Fair Trade Intern

How to host a “Go Bananas for Fair Trade” event on a college campus

The “Go Bananas for Fair Trade” event at Penn State Brandywine, a nationwide campaign organized by Fair Trade Towns USA, was a huge success! As we continue on our journey as a Fair Trade University, we continue to work this fall semester toward raising awareness of the Fair Trade movement on campus, specifically with the first-year students, staff and faculty. On October 9-10, 2012, we hosted an event where campus and community members could come to campus and receive a FREE Fair Trade banana, information about the different Fair Trade labels, and take a Fair Trade banana quiz on an iPad. Be sure to read about the lead up to our event and the resulting success! We hope that our experience can help other campuses learn how to best host a Fair Trade banana event!

Go Bananas for Fair Trade 2012

For starters, we consulted the Go Bananas website and found their Resources page for setting up a banana event. This was very helpful! But there were some other considerations we had to make, especially doing this event on a college campus.

Go Bananas for Fair Trade 2012

Here are a few of the important lessons we learned about “Going Bananas” on campus:

  1. Get permission first! We CANNOT stress this enough!  Our campus has rules with regards to food and food service on campus, and we are sure yours does as well.  Some schools may require that all food be ordered and/or served through your dining services on campus.  We received permission from the business office on campus to obtain the Fair Trade bananas from off campus and to distribute them.
  2. Get the word out. As the Go Bananas campaign ran the first two weeks of October, this was far enough into the fall semester so we were not still trying to get the semester under way.  We used our campus’s social media sites our own social media sites, as well as the template from the Go Bananas website to create 11×17 inch posters with the banana logo/template.  Our local town’s Fair Trade committee was kind enough to include us in an announcement sent to our local paper.  It worked!  In a two-day period, we were able to distribute all of our bananas.
  3. Consider running the event for more than one day. We scheduled the event over two days, as we are a commuter campus and some of our students are only on campus Mondays/Wednesdays/Fridays, while other students are only on campus Tuesdays/Thursdays. By having the event over two days, we were able to reach as many student across our campus population as possible.
  4. Expand your volunteer base – connect with a faculty member/course. Early in the semester, we had a faculty member that teachers Introduction to Business ask if her students could help out with the Go Bananas event.  This was a first for the Fair Trade TrailBlazers, having a faculty member be proactive in contacting us and getting her students involved.  We decided that after we secured the bananas, we would let the business students RUN the event!  This was a great opportunity for us to spread the Fair Trade message to 40 first-semester freshmen in the course and to grow our volunteer base.  These students have been asking more and more questions about Fair Trade, and we bet we are going to see them at our future events!
  5. Purchase more bananas than you think you will need. We actually ran out of bananas before the second day of the event was complete.  Our original plan was to just distribute one banana per student/staff/faculty member, but we couldn’t say “no” to the handful of students that asked for bananas and flyers to provide to family members (again, we are a commuter campus where most of our students still live with their families).  This provided us an opportunity to spread the “fair trade” message beyond campus!
  6. Think about jazzing up your bananas with additional ingredients. We wanted to do chocolate-covered bananas, but we couldn’t figure out how to have warm, melted Fair Trade chocolate in the location we were doing the event for people to dunk their bananas in.  We saw some photos online of other universities doing some innovative slicing of bananas and pouring chocolate and sprinkles on top – what fun!  We think taking our event to the next level with more “trimmings” next time will bring a new twist for us the next time, to bring more people back for more bananas.
  7. Choose a good time, overlap with the breakfast/lunch hours. We set our event at 10AM to 1PM both days, so that people could grab a banana between our morning classes and when they arrived on campus.  Don’t be concerned if you don’t have a large group right when you begin, as people will filter in during the event – most likely, as we say, different students in the morning than over the lunch hour.
  8. Choose a good location on campus.  Typically, most groups on our campus set up tables to promote events right outside the doors of the building that has our cafeteria and athletic center.  We decided to set up outdoors in the center of campus, right next to our Lion Shrine statue.  This allowed us to be visible as students left most of our academic buildings between classes, and we could “spread out” and direct people walking on sidewalks to walk over to our display to grab a banana.  We certainly feel that location, location, location really mattered!
  9. Have a backup plan for bad weather.  We booked an indoor location to give out the bananas, in case of really bad weather.  Well, it actually ended up raining BOTH days of our event, but a little wet weather kept us outside and our energy was not dampened – we still had a successful event!  The only part we were disappointed with was that because of the rain, not many students stayed by our tables outside to eat their banana, they went inside instead.
  10. Have a banana costume (or two). We had two banana costumes (Halloween costumes) available for students to wear.  At first, we were not sure if anyone would wear the costume, but then it turned out we had more students that wanted to wear the costumes than we could manage!  Having very energetic students willing to go around campus in the costumes really helped pull people over to our tables and added alot of fun to the activity.  We were a popular spot for photos!
  11. Include an education component. We gave out a half-page flyer with every banana that provided some websites that talked about Fair Trade bananas and a list of where Fair Trade bananas can be purchased locally.  We also included an information table (pictured below) with samples of products and another handout listing the different Fair Trade certification labels and describing what these labels mean.  We even created a banana quiz for people to take on the iPad, which provided a fun way to bring technology and an interactive activity to the event.
  12. Include an advocacy component. Our original plan was to have a petition for our students to sign to get our campus dining services to serve Fair Trade bananas – but, as it turned out, they started serving Fair Trade bananas the week we had our event.  We’re thrilled that they are STILL serving Fair Trade bananas, and we hope this lasts the entire academic year.
  13. Be environmentally responsible – compost those banana peels.  We checked with the head of our campus landscaping, and it turns out he has two compost piles on campus.  He was more than willing to provide a wheel barrel for us to collect the banana peels so he could compost them (see photo).  This was a nice addition to our event and our campus environmental mission.
  14. Take lots of photos, and share the results. We took pictures and tweeted them during the event and posted a collection of photos in our flickr account after the banana event.  It’s a great way to document what we did and to share the results with others.  We hope the conversation continues and people are inspired to try their own event after seeing and reading what we did!

Go Bananas for Fair Trade 2012

Go Bananas for Fair Trade 2012

Contributed by Dr. Laura Guertin

Hand in Hand Sustainable Suds Seminar

Tuesday, November 13


Tomezsko Building Classroom Lounge (first floor), Penn State Brandywine

Directions to campus and campus map (Building #3)

The Penn State Brandywine Fair Trade TrailBlazers, in conjunction with the Campus Common Read Committee, will be hosting a seminar by the co-founder of Hand in Hand Soap Bill Glaab.  Hand in Hand Soap is a product certified by the Natural Products Association and Fair Trade USA (see this article on FTUSA’s website).

From Hand in Hand’s website:

Hand in Hand Soap was conceived in 2011 by two social entrepreneurs who believe that business can do so much more than just make money… Courtney and Bill set out to start a business based on sustainable giving.  By directly tying charitable donations to the sale of an everyday product, Hand in Hand is able to give soap to those in need and save lives without depending on a single donation.  For every bar purchased, Hand in Hand will donate a bar to save a life… Each bar of soap is 100% eco-friendly, biodegradable, and contains ingredients ethically harvested from sustainable resources.  We have created what we consider to be the most environmentally friendly and ethically conscious soaps on the market today.

On the day of the seminar, the campus is carrying out a one-day soap drive for My Neighbor’s Children, an organization Hand in Hand teams up with to deliver soap to orphaned children worldwide.  We are asking everyone to bring a bar of soap (or two or three or four!) to campus the day of the seminar to then be donated.

The seminar is free and open to the public.  If you have any questions, please contact Connie at (610) 892-1249 or via email at cas34@psu.edu