12 Colleges That Show The Most Commitment To Fair Trade

Supporting fair trade initiatives means encouraging businesses that respect the human and environmental factors that go into creating a consumer product, be it edible, wearable, or something else entirely. As college oftentimes proves a time in which students expands their social consciousness, it makes perfect sense that many campuses have started doing the right thing and paying better attention to where their money goes. Accommodating fair trade suggestions (and demands, in the cases of more exuberant schools) means sending a clear message to producers that their practices employing unfair wages, child labor, inhumane working conditions, and wanton environmental damage is, to put it mildly, wholly unacceptable — in some cases, outright evil.

  1. Oxford Brookes University:

    In 2003, Britain’s Oxford Brookes University established itself as the very first institute of higher learning in the world pledging a full commitment to fair trade and sustainability after meeting with Carbon Trust, The Fairtrade Foundation, and EcoCampus. Not only does it stock its shelves and shops with ethically produced foods and consumer goods, the campus also pulls in energy exclusively from renewable resources, works diligently to reduce the number of commuters, recycles everything recyclable, and uses recyclable materials whenever possible. Brookes works closely with local food producers in order to nurture the surrounding economy and provide more easily-sourced, sustainable, and fair trade meals to its students, staff, faculty, and visitors.

  2. University of Birmingham:

    The second college in the world to ever commit itself fully to the fair trade cause, University of Birmingham, also pledged its allegiance to the human race in 2003. Since then, it has not only converted all of its food services to serve up ethical eats and drinks but also regularly hosts events such as the Fair Trade Fashion Show and weekly sales of guilt-free, imported crafts at the University Chaplaincy. The Fairtrade Steering Group keeps everything running with the hopes of ensuring greater and greater demand for sustainable products created in a manner supporting global communities.

  3. University of Wisconsin Oshkosh:

    University of Wisconsin Oshkosh boasts the distinction of being the first college in the United States to earn fair trade status in 2008, b’gosh (sorry, but we had to do it). Accountability ranks high on its priorities list, and the Campus Sustainability Council ensures compliance through regular inspections and annual reports. The school’s commitment to establishing a more sustainable, just planet extends to all its offerings, from its cafeteria and catered food service to the clothing and jewelry sold in the gift shop.

  4. Siena College:

    Catholics (or Catholic school attendees of other faiths) hoping to support fair trade programming might want to consider the first college adhering to the faith and receiving certification in the social justice movement. Siena College also stands as the third Fair Trade College in the United States and even hosted the Regional Conference for the Fair Trade Colleges organization in 2012. Its food services and snack shops both take pains to provide chocolate, coffee, tea, sugar, and other products created with the rights of workers in mind, though it admits that it can’t yet convert everything.

  5. Manhattan College:

    Students at Manhattan College formed a grassroots movement between fair trade supporters, the groups Campus Ministry & Social Action and JustPeace, eFollett Bookstore, and Gourmet Dining in order to push more ethical consumer practices on campus. The initiative launched in 2007, and the school received Fair Trade College status in 2012, making it the first in New York City and the fifth in the United States to receive the honor. As with most schools devoted to the cause, Manhattan’s dining options now involve fully fair trade food and beverage options as well as clothing items for those harboring reservations about sponsoring companies exploiting outsourced laborers.

  6. St. Michael’s College:

    To St. Michael’s College, Vermont’s first Fair Trade College, purchasing and selling products created within human rights guidelines forms an essential component of its broader commitment to environmental sustainability. In addition to the expected adherence to food service and apparel reflecting their values, the school hosts (and serves from) its very own on-campus organic garden and works closely with local producers rather than anonymous corporate farms. As a Catholic college, St. Michael’s encourages its students to take and adhere to the St. Francis Pledge promoting careful, ethical practices meant to fight poverty and keep the planet healthy — noble intentions that its environmental and fair trade certainly uphold.

  7. Penn State Brandywine:

    Activists at Penn State Brandywine maintain their very own blog keeping supporters and assorted curious parties informed about their efforts to keep the eighth American college (and first in Pennsylvania!) to receive full fair trade recognition ever growing. The Trailblazers responsible for creating an ethical, sustainable campus combine their environmental science, public policy, and international relations expertise and training to hold classes (for credit!), organize awareness events, and distribute educational materials. Since March 2012, its blog spreads the fair trade cause beyond campus by sharing multimedia resources and commentary on the latest news impacting the movement.

  8. Pomona College:

    September of 2012 marked the 11th American and second Californian college to meet the Fair Trade College challenge and receive certification for its laudable efforts. It began its efforts in earnest a year before thanks to three students, one of whom served time as an intern at Fair Trade Claremont and grew inspired. They started with campus dining, who enthusiastically embraced the proposal, and quickly worked their way across Pomona College educating the populace about fair trade. At a school boasting a LEED Platinum Building and a hearty interest in sustainability, that wasn’t too hard to accomplish.

  9. Bridgewater State University:

    Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts is, as of the time of this writing, working toward its fair trade certification. Because earning the honor requires considerable campus outreach, supporters have formulated some particularly creative strategies to promote the cause. Tasting events, lectures, and fairs for example, though Dr. James Hayes-Bohanan received permission to teach two courses on the Geography of Coffee in order to raise awareness of where ubiquitous beverages and other treats originate and the political and ethical issues so often tacked onto the growing, harvesting, and commercial processes.

  10. Tulane University:

    Like Bridgewater, Tulane University currently plugs away at its fair trade certification, and its student body as well as the faculty and staff enjoy learning about ways to create a more ethical, sustainable planet. Every year it holds a Fair Trade Fashion Show and sets up the Fair Trade Market during the holiday season. But when the urge to support some excellent causes hits and there’s no event to be found, campus-goers can stop by the IN Exchange store. Opened by graduate Erica Trani, it sells nothing but fair trade foods, drinks, clothing, jewelry, housewares, and handicrafts from around the world.

  11. Rice University:

    One way to wean off reliance on dubiously procured foods involves turning toward local growers. Not only does this move keep the local economy flowing as much as possible, it makes sourcing and reporting any possible violations much, much easier. Houstonians (not just Owls!) head to the Rice Farmer’s Market every week to curb their spending on imported foods, and the school itself devotes 30% of its meal budget to buying from nearby agriculturalists. Since 2005, the Rice Coffee House — operated entirely by students — has exclusively served fair trade items, and the entire Housing & Dining Department only pours out ethical coffees.

  12. University of California, San Diego:

    University of California, San Diego began its fair trade journey in 2009, and students, faculty, staff, and visitors are provided with a map of the different campus stops where they may purchase fair trade coffees, teas, sugar, chocolate, ice cream, and grains. Originally launched by the One Earth One Justice organization, the school touts itself as adhering to “one of the strongest fair trade policies of any university in the nation.” And by “one of the strongest,” they mean “100 percent … at all locations on campus.” Yup!

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