How to host a Fair Trade-themed clothesline art sale

I feel so fortunate to be at a campus with some amazingly creative students that are not afraid to step up as leaders and take on a project that I myself was overwhelmed to even think about organizing (of course, I didn’t tell them that!).

Here were our ingredients….

  • Fresh Artists – a nonprofit organization based in Philadelphia dedicated to saving artmaking for all children and creating real opportunities for children to be philanthropic.
  • The Walden School – the nation’s first Fair Trade preK-8 school, recently designated a Fair Trade School in November 2011.  our students gave a Fair Trade Show-and-Tell presentation at their school, and were eager to find a way to connect and collaborate on a future project.
  • Penn State Brandywine Fair Trade TrailBlazers – led this semester by our Fair Trade intern Labanya Mookerjee, Labanya successfully coordinated and organized the communications with Fresh Artists, The Walden School, campus maintenance and facilities, and the student volunteers to make this event the success that it was.
Fair Trade Intern Labanya Mookerjee with some of the young artists from The Walden School

Fair Trade Intern Labanya Mookerjee with some of the young artists from The Walden School

Our goal – have children at a local Fair Trade School create artwork on what Fair Trade means to them, bring that artwork to Penn State Brandywine for a Fair Trade-themed clothesline art sale, share/discuss their artwork with members of the Penn State Brandywine and greater communities, collect donations for the artwork, so that art supplies can be purchased for kids in the city of Chester that do not have any art supplies in their schools.  (whew – quite a goal!)

We have reported on the events with a video in this post and an overall summary, and we encourage you to review these posts first to get a feel for what the event was and how it ran.  In addition, here are some tips we felt were important to make note of during our preparations and execution of the event.  We hope that our experience can help other campuses learn how to best host a Fair Trade-themed clothesline art sale!

The Walden School artists sitting in front of their artwork, strung for all to see

The Walden School artists sitting in front of their artwork, strung for all to see.

  1. Get permission first! We CANNOT stress this enough!  Since this event was going to involve bringing minor children to campus, we first contacted our business office, who then contacted the Office of Risk Management of the University.  Because this was a Walden School event that was hosted at our campus, there were a series of forms that had to be signed by The Walden School and submitted to us and processed at least two weeks before the event.  Warning – this process will take longer than you may think – get started EARLY on securing all the permissions/signatures you need.  If you are just doing the event on campus with artwork by/for college students, then you should still check to see what rules may apply if your event is open to the general public from outside the campus.
  2. Get the word out. We created a logo, flyer, blog post, and did a social media blast to get the word out.  We used our campus’s social media sites our own social media sites.  Our local town’s Fair Trade committee was kind enough to spread the word and promote the event in their newsletter and on their social media sites.  It worked!  Although most of the visitors to the event were campus staff and students (although, we sent a special invitation to our Chancellor to attend – and she came!), at the end of the day, all pieces of the student artwork found a home, and Fresh Artists received $375 to purchase more art supplies for students in the city of Chester.
  3. Consider the time and location for the event. The best space for us to have the event on campus was a large student lounge, surrounded by benches and railings so we could easily keep the kids all sitting in one spot in front of their artwork on the clothesline, in a building with four classrooms off the lounge.  We were originally going to have the event on an afternoon when no classes were held during the time the school kids could come and visit, but then, the date changed and we ended up with 60 preK-8th grade kids in a large lounge (where yes, the noise echoed) and classes taking place.  Despite several attempts to keep the kids quiet, the children were just so thrilled to talk about their artwork and be at our campus.  It was a struggle for me, because I wanted the kids to be excited and to be happy to be participating in the event, but I was sensitive to the classrooms and college students in their rooms.  Fortunately, the campus faculty were very understanding when I explained what was going on.  One faculty member even asked how her daughter’s school could become a Fair Trade School!
  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 any of our Fair Trade events.  Her students assisted last semester with our Go Bananas for Fair Trade and Alta Gracia T-shirt Swap events, and we were thrilled to have her students assist again!  These volunteers were essential in helping hang up the artwork, helping the children get name tags when they arrived, distributing the cupcakes and beverages, etc.  We used 20 student volunteers the day of the event, and I do not think we could have pulled this off with any fewer.  This was also a great opportunity for us to spread the Fair Trade message to students in a freshman 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. Have your volunteers easily identifiable to the children.  We had all of our college volunteers wear the same Penn State t-shirt and name tags, so the children would know who was an official student helping with the event.
  6. Start the event with a short lecture/description of the event and ground rules.  We wanted to make sure the kids knew the impact of not only “selling” their artwork and sharing it with others, but what the impact would be for other kids in the region.  We showed the kids a video about Fresh Artists that also described the purpose of a clothesline art sale.  Our twist was the Fair Trade theme!  We also took the opportunity to remind the kids that they were still “in school” – no running in the halls, yelling, etc.
  7. Arrange for your mascot to stop by and visit.  What kid doesn’t like a school mascot?  We had our Nittany Lion come by at the beginning of the event.  As you can imagine, the kids were thrilled!  After doing some dance moves with the Lion, they posed for some photos, showed off their artwork, and then the Lion was on his way as our event continued.
  8. If you have young artists, have a snack.  Since the event was after lunch, we decided to keep with the artistic theme and ordered several cupcake cakes, each with their own design.  We had college student volunteers handle the cupcakes – they each wore plastic gloves (for sanitary purposes) and placed the cupcake in a bowl to catch the crumbs when the kids ate the cupcakes.  It worked!  We did not have a cupcake mess to clean up.  We also had water, iced tea, and lemonade for the kids to drink.
  9. Not all of the young artists will want you to take their artwork home!  Some of our campus staff were disappointed when they tried to “purchase” the artwork, and a child did not want to sell their creation!  Some kids were so proud of their work that they wanted to keep the pieces themselves.  The school principal promised these kids that she would take their pieces back and hang them in their school, which she has!
  10. There’s no need to put a price on the artwork – it is all priceless.  We did not put a price on the pieces of art – we only had a basket out and asked for donations for the pieces.  We figure that some college students might only be able to afford one dollar for a piece of art, while some adults could afford more.  Our strategy of not setting prices was successful beyond our dreams!  For approximately 70 pieces of art, we raised $375 – for Fresh Artists!
  11. Take lots of photos, and share the results. FIRST AND MOST IMPORTANTLY… we knew we could not take photos of minor children and post these images online, unless we had signed parental permission.  (Legally, we could use photos that had the backs of the heads of children, or the faces blurred out.)  Fortunately, we did have parental permission!  As this event was a Walden School event, their school had the permission of all of the parents for pictures to be taken of their children, which allowed us to take the photos as well.  Knowing that we had the permission in place to take photos of minors, we took pictures and tweeted them during the event and posted a collection of photos online.  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!
Our collection of creative and artistic cupcake cakes to share with the young artists - perfect for an artistic event!

Our collection of creative and artistic cupcake cakes to share with the young artists – perfect for an artistic event!

The Nittany Lion gets to know one of the young artists from The Walden School.

The Nittany Lion gets to know one of the young artists from The Walden School.

 

Contributed by Dr. Laura Guertin

 

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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

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

How to host a Fair Trade s’more event on a college campus

The Fair Trade s’more event at Penn State Brandywine, Global Exchange’s We Want More from Our S’mores, was a huge success! As we continue on our journey as a Fair Trade University, we have worked all summer toward raising awareness of the Fair Trade movement on campus, specifically with the staff and faculty. On August 16, 2012, we hosted an event where campus and community members could come to campus to make a Fair Trade s’more and hear about the challenges in the cocoa industry. 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 s’more event!

IMG_Fair Trade S'mores Event6995

For starters, we consulted the Global Exchange website and found their step-by-step checklist for setting up a s’more event.  This was very helpful!  But there were some other considerations we had to make, especially doing this event on a college campus in the summer.

Fair Trade S'mores Event

Here are a few of the important lessons we learned about hosting a s’more event on campus:

  1. Get permission first! We CANNOT stress this enough!  Our campus does not have any fire pits or grills.  We checked with the director of business services on campus to see if we could have permission to toast marshmallows (we saw instructions online on how to soften marshmallows in the microwave, but we knew it would not be the same).  We received permission to use a propane grill outdoors in an open area, as long as campus security was present with a fire extinguisher the entire time (and he was!).  The propane grill did not have the “flame” that is typically associated with making s’mores, but the marshmallows did get soft and gooey!  Be sure to check with the appropriate office on campus to see when, where, and how you can make s’mores.
  2. Get the word out. As the We Want More from Our S’mores campaign ran from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the timing made it difficult to get many students involved, but a great opportunity to get faculty and staff on board.  We used our campus’s social media sites our own social media sites, and sent an announcement to our local town’s Fair Trade committee.  We also emailed the faculty and staff email lists on campus to reach the people we knew would be around in the summer, and we sent specific invitations to campus administrators and alumni.  It worked!  We had 40 people in attendance, with a great mix of faculty, staff, and some students that were on campus that day.
  3. Have a RSVP form, but only use it as an estimate. We sent out a link to our online RSVP form in our emails and social media sites, so we could figure out how much food to purchase.  We had 25 people fill out our online RSVP form, but as I just stated, 40 people showed up!  Once word of mouth started spreading around campus about the event, we think people decided close to the date of the event to attend, and by that point, forgot about the RSVP.  And of the people that did RSVP, approximately 10 of them did not attend.  So although the RSVP form was a great idea, it did not exactly help with our planning (see our next point….)  But we certainly didn’t mind the overflow of people, because the more we can reach out to, the better!
  4. Purchase more ingredients than the RSVP says you will need. Because we had more people show up than responded to the invitation, we were relieved we bought extra ingredients!  And, we saw some people randomly chomping down on giant marshmallows and chocolate, in more of a deconstructed s’more form, which was fine by us!
  5. Think about jazzing up your s’mores with additional ingredients. We also purchased Fair Trade bananas from Whole Foods and organic strawberries, which allowed us the opportunity to show the Fair Trade logo to attendees, to let them know where to purchase these food items, themselves, and to discuss the developing Domestic Fair Trade certification movement (since there are no Fair Trade strawberries at this time).
  6. Choose a good time, overlap with the lunch hour. We set our event at 12:30PM-1:30PM, so that people could eat their lunch first and then come over for a s’more.  This also worked well for staff/faculty that were in lunchtime meetings from Noon-1PM.  We had many people come at different times in the hour, and we didn’t finish cleaning up until 2PM.  So don’t be concerned if you don’t have a large group right when you begin, as people will filter in during the event.
  7. Include an education component. We gave a short talk about what is going on with child slave labor in the cocoa industry, letting people know which chocolate companies are Fair Trade, which ones are making progress, and which ones have much progress that still needs to be made.
  8. Include an advocacy component. We had several copies of the Global Exchange petition for the Raise the Bar campaign.  By having multiple copies around the area we hosted the event, we were able to fill three pages with signatures.  This allowed people to not only learn about Fair Trade chocolate, but to get involved by making their voice heard.
  9. 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 s’more fest.  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!

Fair Trade S'mores Event

Contributed by Dr. Laura Guertin

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 change.org.

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.