Week promoting Fair Trade wraps up

Engineers Without Borders are looking to make Queen’s a socially conscious Fair Trade campus

Engineers Without Borders handed out free products in the ARC throughout the week.
Image by: Alex Pickering
Engineers Without Borders handed out free products in the ARC throughout the week.

Queen’s Engineers Without Borders (EWB) took to the streets around campus to promote equitable coffee cultivation practices as part of Fair Trade Campus Week.

The Queen’s Fair Trade committee handed out free Fair Trade products in the ARC and held an information session to raise awareness.

EWB also collected over 250 signatures on a petition for Queen’s to become a Fair Trade campus.

Fair Trade is a non-profit organization that works to develop certain social and environmental standards in the farming and agriculture industry. The group’s main focus is to ensure farmers and agriculture laborers receive proper wages and working conditions, especially in the coffee, chocolate and tea industries, which have recently been under scrutiny for use of child labour.

The organization offers universities Fair Trade status if campus cafeterias and student-run stores offer solely Fair Trade coffee and at least three Fair Trade tea options. If chocolate bars are sold, they must offer at least one Fair Trade chocolate option. The University must also establish a Fair Trade committee and supply information about Fair Trade where products are being sold.

Many Canadian campuses, such as McGill and Brock, have made the transition to gain “Fair Trade Campus” status. Queen’s offers some Fair Trade options but has yet to fully transition, which Ashley Fill, vice president of EWB, said she isn’t satisfied with.

Fill, Sci ’16, organized this week’s events. She said the purpose of the week is to raise awareness and encourage Queen’s students to “join the prestigious standard of being Fair Trade and being socially conscious,” like other universities.

Just as organic products are often more expensive than non-organics, Fill said the potential price increase for Fair Trade products is “the cost of being socially conscious”.

According to the Fair Trade committee, Common Ground and Queen’s cafeterias offer solely Fair Trade coffee, but still need to offer more Fair Trade tea options in order for Queen’s to gain Fair Trade status.

The Fair Trade committee’s biggest obstacle now is the Tea Room, she added, which offers products that aren’t necessarily Fair Trade but meet similar environmental standards.

“[The Tea Room] meets [Fair Trade’s] environmental standards, but not necessarily the social standards,” Fill said, adding that this is something she’s looking to change.

Cole Halenda, head manager of The Tea Room, said it works to ensure its products are “as environmentally and socially sustainable as possible”.

Halenda, Sci ’15, said the Tea Room has a high environmental standard for the products they offer, and makes sure that all suppliers have some variation of Fair Trade certification.

The Tea Room and EWB have discussed the possibility of gaining Fair Trade status.

“It is difficult for us to find suppliers that maintain the same environmental mantra we do, let alone a specific variety of fair trade certification,” Halenda said.

In addition to this week’s events, the Fair Trade committee plans to hold monthly events, collaborating with other Fair Trade initiatives in Kingston such as Ten Thousand Villages, which closed its Kingston location in 2013.


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