A campaign lead by students is underway to designate the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point as a fair trade campus.
The Office of Sustainability and Students for Sustainability created a committee that will work toward passing an official student senate referendum vote and placing certified fair trade goods within campus retail locations to meet requirements for accreditation by Fair Trade USA, a third-party certifier.
Justin Seis, student special projects coordinator for the Office of Sustainability, said work needs to be done finding products that are not only fair trade but also meet financial limitations and contractual requirements for campus retail outlets.
“We need to find fair trade products we can pitch to them as a replacement for something that isn’t,” Seis said. “Right now we need to take stock of what we’ve got.”
Finding replacement products of similar quality and cost is not easy, Seis said, and he hopes to open lines between merchandising staff and campaign members to find satisfactory equivalents.
“The places that supply a fair trade product have a very intensive process,” Seis said. “Cost is something you always worry about with that stuff.”
All coffee sold on campus is currently fair trade certified. Additionally, the University Store and Text Rental carries a handful of fair trade clothing items.
Melanie Heibler, Student sales floor associate of the store, said she believes UWSP students tend to be more aware of environmental and social issues and having fair trade options seems logical.
“There are so many natural resources majors here,” Heibler said. “Throwing fair trade in kind of seems like second nature.”
The fair trade clothing in the store supports workers in the Dominican Republic, a country Heibler has traveled to.
“If we stopped carrying them I’d probably be upset because it goes to such a good cause,” Heibler said.
Dave Barbier, sustainability coordinator for the office, said he sees the movement as an awareness campaign for environmental and social justice issues.
“We as students and as a campus need to be aware of what we can do with our dollar,” Barbier said. “We can make decisions that are better for the planet overall.”
Fair trade business and sustainable production go hand in hand, but do not always exist together, Barbier said. As whole, fair trade satisfies two-thirds of the triple bottom line, which is when something is good for people, the environment and the economy.
“When you look at fair trade, you sort of know its better for people and better for the profit,” Barbier said. “We don’t always know the farming practices that go with that sort of certification.”
Simply having the option to buy products that are fair trade and environmentally conscious is one reason Barbier believes this campaign is worthwhile.
When talking about the availability of fair trade and environmentally conscious goods, Barbier said, “right now that option doesn’t exist, and it should at a certain level.”