Playing Fair: CMU’s Fair Trade Exhibit showcases a movement

Do you ever think about how and where the food and clothing you buy is produced? Do you ever wonder if the people who pick your coffee beans receive a fair wage, or if the tomatoes you buy are grown in environmentally friendly conditions? Did you know you can make a difference just by purchasing certain products that are Fair Trade Certified?

Fair trade is the practice of buying products from people, often in developing nations, who were paid a reasonable wage and worked in conditions that were environmentally sustainable. The Fair Trade Labeling Organization owns the name “fair trade” and is made up of over 20 groups that certify products as fair trade.

TransFair USA, the organization that monitors fair trade in the United States only certifies products that come from companies that follow certain standards, such as no forced child labor, providing reasonable wages, investment back into the community. Another important requirement is using environmentally friendly practices like waste management, regulation of pesticides and banning deforestation.

Central Michigan University’s Multicultural Education Center is taking a step in educating students about this flourishing movement by hosting an exhibit on fair trade.

“If you are looking to help people out of poverty, protect the environment or promote sustainability, you should shop fair trade,” Sarah Avery, Administrative Secretary for the Multicultural Education Center and Native American Programs, said.

The exhibit highlights different fair trade organizations, some secular and some religious. It also shows different fair trade products that are available, like coffee, chocolate and crafts.

“If you buy something fair trade, you are voting to improve the life of someone,” Avery said.

The exhibit shows how fair trade helps women by giving them a market to sell their crafts, and promotes education by offering low-risk loans to families which in turn gives children a chance to go to school. It also encourages sustainability by regulating the amount of pesticides allowed and discouraging deforestation. The exhibit highlights specific stories of fair trade workers in places like Nicaragua, Ghana and Cameroon.

The display is running now until Oct. 7 and is located in the Multicultural Education Center in the Bovee University Center.

Looking for fair trade options in Mount Pleasant? Coffee shops on and nearby campus like Java City, University Cup Coffee, 1027 S. Franklin St., and Kaya Coffee House, 1029 S. University Ave., serve fair trade coffee. Products that don the certification are becoming more accessible with grocery chains like Meijer, Kroger, and Sam’s Club carrying fair trade chocolates and coffee. Green Tree Cooperative Grocery, 214 N. Franklin St., also carries a variety of fair trade gift items. They sell bracelets and scarves from Global Girlfriend, a company that practices fair trade and employs women from Africa and India.

Beyond mid-Michigan, consumers can find a variety of fair trade options by shopping online. Ten Thousand Villages,, is a store that works with artisans all over the world to make and sell fair trade gifts. Their online store contains purses, hats, scarves, soaps, home décor and more. Global Exchange,, contains similar gift items, like jewelry and crafts, but also food items, like Palestinian olive oil and Tibetan hot sauce.



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  1. 1
    Mitch Teberg

    I like your article on Fair Trade!! It is much needed! In 2003-04, I was a post-graduate student and active member of the University of New Mexico Fair Trade Initiative and a volunteer at PeaceCraft, the nearby non-profit Fair Trade store. In 2005, I left the US on a self-titled, Journey for Fair Trade to follow up on PeaceCraft’s trading partners in South East Asia. For a year I backpacked in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam to meet with the producer groups and the artisans, weavers, and craftswomen and men who make Fair Trade products. The last four months of that year, I was involved in an Oxfam project to reintegrate survivors of human trafficking through skills training in handicraft production in Vietnam.nnNow I am doing it again and I am contacting you to give you an opportunity to follow cutting edge research in Fair Trade! nnnWhy I am doing this research is simple. The Fair Trade movement in the West has been well documented, as have the theoretical debates surrounding globalization to include the devastating impact of neo-liberal economic models, Structural Adjustment Programs encased in false ideological promises, and Financial Aid packages that place future generations in debt to foreign lenders. Additionally, Fair Trade impact studies have been conducted by development organizations and specialists, and Fair Trade ethnologies have been documented in anthropological studies.nnnWhat is missing is the voices of the producers themselves, the local Fair Traders and their supporters in the South. My aim is to write a publication about Fair Trade from the perspective of the South. I maintain a blog which describes what I am doing and presents a summary of my findings as I travel. I started in Vietnam and am currently in the Philippines. As I go, I write short monthly articles for the Fair Trade Resource Network e-newsletter and the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) will be publishing an article on my journey in the coming weeks.nnnI am doing this on my own funds in hopes of raising awareness of Fair Trade, but to get the interest of a publisher I need to show there is a following of my work and a potential market for them to sell the publication. For more information about who I am, you can see my CV on Linked-in. If you like what I am doing and interested in my Journey for Fair Trade, please check out my blog and share it with fellow Fair Traders, friends, university faculty, colleagues, family and anyone interested in Fair Trade. Feel free to link to and/or follow my blog and to add your comments, ideas or suggestions! I welcome any commentary.

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