Guest Blog: Make Your Campus Fair Trade!

09/08/2009 - 1:31 PM
By Timothy J. O’Brien, PhD candidate, University of Houston sft-marching-picThe beginning of the fall semester means it’s time for the University of Houston Students for Fair Trade to take the next step in our almost four year long struggle to make our school an all fair trade school. In the early spring of 2006, no fair trade products were available at our urban campus. Most of the 36,000+ students commuted to campus and activism was non-existent. I was in my fourth and final semester of my masters program and I just wanted to buy a cup of socially responsible coffee. I did not have one page of my thesis written, and my wife was expecting a baby in six weeks. It was time to start the fair trade revolution. After several weeks of calls to our campus food service provider, I was not making any progress getting the fair trade beans to campus. I stepped it up by pasting about three hundred flyers containing information on coffee farmers’ working conditions around campus. That tactic worked well. The UH business office demanded an immediate meeting with me, the sole member of Students for Fair Trade. In the meeting they informed me that fair trade coffee was now available at every campus retail location. Now that I am one semester away from attaining my doctorate, it is amazing to look back at what a handful of students have accomplished over the intervening years. Our campaign has brought fair trade greeting cards, tea, chocolate, and hot cocoa to campus. Our campus has gone from zero all fair trade coffee outlets to five. Almost 60% of the coffee now sold on our campus is fair trade. Fair trade signs and brochures are all around our campus. We’ve helped Hope for Women, the fair trade greeting card company, get registered to do business with 700 Barnes and Nobles campus bookstores. We have also received over $3,500 in grants for our work and we have educated students, staff, and faculty about living a fair trade life. tim-cp-awardStories or guest blog posts about us are on the United Students for Fair Trade website, the Fair Trade Resource Network homepage, the Stir it Up Campaign site, the Campus Progress site and our college and city newspapers. In July, Campus Progress honored us with their Action Campaign of the year award. They flew us to Washington D.C. for an award ceremony at their conference, which featured a speech by former president William Clinton. Students for Fair Trade success proves that one person can make a difference and in the process change the way a billion dollar educational organization does business. Back to school means it is time to organize in solidarity with workers and educate your school’s administrators about fair trade. Work to earn an “A” in Empowerment 101!
09/08/2009 - 1:31 PM
09/08/2009 - 1:31 PM