Elyssa Loughlin | Editor
On Tuesday, Oct. 9 during free period, La Salle students, faculty and the surrounding community had the chance to participate in what is now becoming a yearly tradition: the Fair Trade Fair. The Fair Trade Fair took place on the walkway between the Connelly Library and the tennis courts and featured crafts and goods from five vendors. The craftsmen and women whose good were featured were from countries across Africa, Asia and South America, including countries such as Guatemala, Vietnam, India and Bangladesh. Among the goods for sale were beaded keychains, bags, pants, instruments, knick knacks, headbands, scrunchies and fanny packs. Handmade jewelry and carved animals, like elephants, were among the most popular.
Since its inception, the fair has been a spot for members of the Lasallian community to learn about fair trade and support independent vendors. “What makes the fair trade fair so special is not only does it benefit workers in multiple communities, but because many of the products are handmade and carefully crafted, every product has its own unique component to it,” junior communication major Emily Glycenfer said. “It’s hard to find two identical products from any one of the vendors at the fair.”
The Catholic Relief Services (CRS) sponsored the event and the University Ministry and Services (UMAS) programs had a hand in obtaining products from numerous fair trade vendors.
Since its inception in 2013, the Fair Trade Fair has been a staple event for the organization. “Going to the Fair Trade Fair was what got me involved with CRS,” La Salle alumna Sarah Lance told the Collegian. “I loved that the university was providing an option for students to shop and learn about ethically sourced goods.” After becoming a CRS coordinator, Lance had one goal “I wanted the Fair Trade Fair to be a known, yearly event that students at La Salle could count on to go to every fall,” said Lance.
Fair trade is a system that pays workers in developing nations fair wages for the work that they do. In the past few years, there has been a push to begin questioning where products consumers are buying have come from. Many products that consumers buy are being supplied by companies that outsource labor to workers in developing nations. Many of these workers are treated unfairly and are not given enough money to live above the poverty line or to even provide for their families.
Many corporations have been caught in hot water after their unethical business practices have been brought to light, and consumers have started to demand products that are sourced ethically. Corporations such as Starbucks, Primark, Whole Foods and Ben and Jerry’s have all begun to move toward supplying only fair trade and ethically produced goods. While mostly food companies have made the switch, corporations in other sectors are looking to make changes soon.
“The fair trade fair is a great way to support ethically sourced goods,” junior biology major Olivia Mowery said. “It’s one of my favorite La Salle events every year.” Many of the vendors who made the goods are present at the fair trade fair, which, according to senior education major Gabby Tavianini, is what makes every purchase so special. “Everyone there is so nice and there is a great sense of community because everything there is so authentic,” she said. “While you’re there, you get to hear stories about the products you’re buying. I bought a backpack and the woman told me that it had been made out of one of the worker’s blouses,” said Tavianini.
In one of the many educational opportunities La Salle has brought to campus to enlighten the community on the importance of buying fair trade, the event gives students and faculty the opportunity to use the information they have learned in a real world setting. “I think that the importance of the Fair Trade Fair, apart from awesome shopping, is to have a better understanding and consciousness of where the goods they buy come from, who makes them and at what cost,” Lance said. “Knowing that people are being paid fairly for the work they’ve done is really important,” Tavianini added. “It’s the reason I keep coming back every year.”