Using fair trade is one step instructional institutions can take to prioritize sustainability. Ramapo created a fair trade initiative in fall 2018 as part of the college’s commitment to civic engagement.
Neriko Doerr, assistant professor of anthropology and international studies, hosted the first returning meeting for the fair trade group on Tuesday, Nov. 9 with the goal of creating new plans to establish fair trade at Ramapo.
According to Ramapo’s “Fair Trade at Ramapo: A Campus-Wide Project” page, the goal is twofold: education and presence of fair trade goods. Doerr and the attendees of the meeting discussed options for both routes.
“Fair trade is a kind of movement to certify the products that doesn’t involve, say, environmental destruction or horrible labor relations,” Doerr says. “If, as consumers, we say no to cheap things that have a lot of bad effects to different parts of the world, then companies will be pushed to do a better job.”
Fair trade goods are not made domestically, and their certification often makes the product more expensive, though it represents a different quality of product. On a campus, this might look like ordering different office supplies or selling fair trade coffee in cafes.
Campuses can become fair trade certified through fair trade campaigns by taking steps like enrolling offices and catering, and passing fair trade resolutions. Students from more disciplines than environmental studies can be involved in learning about and helping to complete these steps.
“Fair Trade involves various social issues — business ethics, labor relations, human rights, gender equality, environmental sustainability, public health, etc. — and is region- and commodity-specific,” Ramapo’s website states. “Interdisciplinary and collaborative knowledge building allows us to understand the need for and implementation of fair trade holistically.”
At the meeting, several professors discussed how fair trade might be incorporated into their spring curriculums. This could involve students centering projects in statistics, civic engagement or sustainability around fair trade.
Professor Ashwani Vasishth notes how important it is that students be aware of this initiative and be a leading part of change. Through deeper education on the topic, students will be able to develop ideas on how to create concrete steps toward having more fair trade goods on campus and beyond after graduation.
Doerr and Vasishth hope that with raising awareness, student groups will connect with the fair trade group and find ways to involve their organizations through service, research or advertising.