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"Conscientious" Consumerism During Holiday Season

Amy Fair Trade.jpg

If a product is considered to be “green,” the production of the item made little impact on the environment.  Similarly, if a product is “fair trade certified,” then the workers, who made it, received reasonable wages and the vendors sell the product at a fair price.

The 8th annual Fair Trade Week at Duquesne University aims to bring more attention to the fair trade movement.  Duquesne’s Campus Ministry assembled fair trade vendors and created a marketplace for their items in the Student Union through Thursday.

Kate Lecci, one of the organizers of the event, said dialogue, transparency, and respect are the overarching themes of the fair trade movement.

“When you say something is fair trade you’re talking about both a social movement and a business practice,” Lecci said.  “The main key points about fair trade is that the middle man is taken out and the producer and consumer are kind of tied together through less steps.”

Fair wage, not a handout

But Lecci said fair trade is not about giving handouts, it’s more about offering a “hand-up.”

“When I purchase something that is fair trade, guaranteed I will know that the person producing the product is paid a fair wage, is working in fair working conditions.”

Lecci added fair trade producers also have a seat at the table in terms of how the product is made and sold.

A first-time vendor at Duquesne University’s fair trade week showcase is Ten Thousand Villages.  The Pittsburgh store on Forbes Avenue is providing fair trade certified coffee and chocolate samples to Fair Trade Week attendees throughout the week. 

Move toward better conditions

Store manager Jennifer Legler said better working conditions overseas would promote better working conditions domestically.

“You don’t want to be competing with people who are working in sweat shops across the world, you want everyone to be having those better opportunities,” Legler said.  “That makes better conditions for everyone, not just in those countries.”

Fair working conditions are part of the fair trade movement, but so are fair prices.  Amy Sobowiak is a co-founder of Women of the Cloud Forest.  The organization teaches crafting skills to women in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.  A pair of handmade rainforest seed earrings from Women of the Cloud Forest can cost as little as $5.

“These earrings that I’m talking about, they’re very easy to make, and very quick to make, and so the price can be super competitive to something you might find in a sweat shop, but the artisans are making a lot more money producing that product,” Sobowiak said.

Other than the marketplace, Duquesne University is also hosting a fair trade fashion show featuring fair trade clothing Tuesday at 7 p.m.

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