University of Calgary

Students aim to create a Fair Trade Campus

UToday HomeFebruary 15, 2012

By Elise Hetu

Left to right: Kelly James, Sara Walde, and Shannon Thompson educate the campus community about responsible purchasing at their Fair Trade Friday booth. Photo by Elise HetuLeft to right: Kelly James, Sara Walde, and Shannon Thompson educate the campus community about responsible purchasing at their Fair Trade Friday booth. Photo by Elise HetuStudents Sara Walde and Kelly James are working toward having the university become the second Fair Trade campus in Canada—with goods that come from famers and artisans who work in safe environments and receive a fair wage.

In 2010, Walde and James wrote a proposal outlining the steps necessary to join University of British Columbia and achieve a Fair Trade Campus designation. The Students’ Union and Residence and Ancillary Services were enthusiastic about the idea and immediately began working with campus vendors on their purchasing decisions.

To get the designation, campus must meet standards in three categories set out by Fair Trade Canada, a national Fair Trade certification organization: Fair Trade coffee, teas and chocolate bars must be readily available for student purchase and university events, Fair Trade options must be highly visible through signage and a designated Fair Trade page on the university website, and a Fair Trade committee must be formed.

“We are very excited to be working on this student-led initiative. We are working with our suppliers to source Fair Trade products,” says Voula Cocolakis, executive director of Residence and Ancillary Services.

Walde and James have spearheaded ‘Fair Trade Fridays’ through Engineers Without Borders (EWB), a student club they belong to, in order to create demand for Fair Trade products. “We are in Science B every Friday from 8:30 to 10:30 giving away free Fair Trade coffee, tea and chocolate,” says Walde, who is studying marketing and development studies. “We are always excited to see people visit the booth and share their interest. If demand for Fair Trade increases, so will the supply.”

Walde and James also plan to host a speaker series and coordinate educational field trips. “We want to inspire conversation and get people thinking,” explains James, a development studies and economics student. “Maintaining a dialogue is the best way to create change.”

Walde and James graduate this April and will pass the responsibility of coordinating the EWB Fair Trade Team to Shannon Thompson. They encourage all campus members to join them on their mission to make the university a Fair Trade Campus by visiting the Fair Trade Friday booth and making responsible purchasing decisions.

For more stories on how students, staff and faculty are stepping up together to turn SustainabilityON at the University of Calgary or to learn how you can get involved, visit: www.ucalgary.ca/sustainability