Fair Trade LA partnered with St. Andrew Church in Pasadena to hold a fair trade boutique at its school Sunday, attracting many people who wanted to support local economies elsewhere.
This is the second year Fair Trade LA and St. Andrew united to have a pop-up boutique with several local vendors selling all fair trade products. Fair Trade LA partners with organizations that sell fair trade products like schools, community centers and places of worship, where fair trade fits with the philosophy of helping people in need.
Martha Solorio poured fair trade coffee from Africa for attendees. As a six-year member of the church, Solorio became involved in the Peace and Justice ministry last year. To establish the ministry, a group of interested church members learned about different issues like global poverty and social teaching for 30 weeks.
“I’m a resident of Pasadena, and I feel there’s an increase of those who do not have,” Solorio said. “Giving a dollar here or two dollars there cannot solve an issue. When coming together in a group, maybe all of our little efforts together can make a difference.”
Fair trade is a network of trade where vendors buy products from artisan collectives from all over the globe at fair prices, so the artisans receive fair wages to support their families and livelihoods. Many of the artisans are women who work at home or at a center in safe conditions, and there’s no child labor. In most cases, a portion of their profits go to providing resources for their communities. With fair trade, the environment is preserved, meaning the artisans find less invasive ways to create things like clothes, jewelry and trinkets.
In Christianity, fair trade became an important aspect of giving back when Mennonite Edna Ruth Byler bought handcrafted products from artisans in Puerto Rico and sold the products at Pennsylvania churches in the 1940s, which eventually evolved into renowned fair trade organization Ten Thousand Villages.
“We’re working with small communities and artist collectives left out of the trade network,” said Chris Bostwick, longtime volunteer with Art Aids Art. “They can’t depend on large vendors like Pier 1 Imports and Cost Plus World Market. We wanted to supply employment. We wanted to make a small profit and dump the money back into the community.”
Art Aids Art is a nonprofit in Altadena that travels to South Africa and works with artisans there who specialize in mostly beads and textiles like aprons and bags. In the past 12 years, Art Aids Art has built a community center to provide education and create a source of income in Khayelitsha, South Africa.
Helping people in her home country drove Salome Santos to create Tribu, or “tribe” in Spanish, a fair trade store in Torrance. When she came to the United States from Ecuador 24 years ago, Santos said she wanted people to learn about her country.
“It’s such an amazing little country,” Santos said. “This has taught me a lot about my own country, my own roots.”
She works with three family artisan collectives in Ecuador that specialize in making accessories from alpaca and cotton dyed with natural plants and beads made from the tagua nut.
“We tell people to keep working with their hands,” she said. “They want more money, so they want to use the machine. They forget their cultures.”
A passion for making handcrafted items from rural communities marketable inspired Fair Trade LA director Joan Harper to start the organization with four others interested in promoting fair trade in the Los Angeles region. The goal, she said, is to have more people buy fair trade.
“I can buy something that’s fair trade, or I can buy something that’s made in China,” she said. “It’s a little more expensive, but if it is, you’re supporting people who can stay home and work.”
Also a part of the community, Laurel Averill began working with Fair Trade LA soon after opening her store, Vida Verde, in La Cañada Flintridge in 2008. She finds her inventory at large gift shows in California and New York and make orders with the collective representatives. One day, Averill said Harper walked into the store and informed her she sold fair trade products.
“Because I was green, I was buying fair trade and didn’t know it,” she said.
Because of the recession, Vida Verde now sells at a hair salon two doors away from its original home. At the event, Averill sold products like greeting cards made from the Himalayan lokta bush and other accessories from around the world. Selling a variety of international goods with helping the artisans who made them inspired Averill to get more involved in fair trade.
“Then I was hooked, and I wanted to buy more and more,” she said.
Saturday, May 10 is World Fair Trade Day with Fair Trade LA hosting another boutique event at the Jameson Brown Coffee Roasters in Pasadena. In southern California, Pasadena and Claremont are fair trade cities with Altadena and Irvine working on the recognition.
LMU has officially attained fair trade status as of February 18, meeting the five requirements set forth by Fair Trade Campaigns. These five requirements include building a team, reaching out to campus outlets, sourcing fair trade at events and meetings, committing to fair trade education and passing a fair trade resolution. LMU is only the second university in California to achieve fair trade status, following the University of San Diego.
Fair trade aims to justly compensate workers for the products that they create. According to the Fair Trade Campaigns website, “When you choose to purchase fair trade products, you are endorsing an economic system that provides opportunities for international farmers, artisans and workers to lift themselves out of poverty. Fair trade ensures consumers that the products they purchase were grown, harvested, crafted and traded in ways that improve lives and protect the environment.”
The fair trade movement at LMU was primarily spearheaded by senior entrepreneurship major Darlene Fukuji and Tom King, director of the Center for Service and Action, beginning in the spring of 2013. Fukuji first found out about fair trade while in Washington D.C., where she saw a booth about fair trade and really admired the movement’s values. She was contacted by King, who had attended a conference, learned more about fair trade and was interested in making it known at LMU.
Fukuji and King formed a fair trade committee, comprised of a representative from each service organization, two representatives from the Loyolan and a representative from ASLMU. After forming, they held meetings to start working towards a fair trade status.
When the committee first started, they did many things to make fair trade known at LMU. This outreach included education about fair trade, putting on a Fair Trade Awareness Week, hosting a movie night and helping at a Regional Fair Trade gathering on their campus. A big success was that The Coffee Bean gave her a gift: their first blend of fair trade coffee, which will be the main blend on campus when they arrive.
The fair trade committee has worked hard since it formed to make sure LMU follows fair trade ideals. Because of the committee’s efforts, LMU now sells about 20 fair trade products in various places around campus, and the bookstore even carries fair trade clothing. In the future, the committee wants to get every department on campus to serve at least one fair trade product. They also want to get more clubs on campus to use fair trade T-shirts for their club shirts to increase the amount of fair trade products around campus and to increase awareness by holding one or two events a semester.
On April 24 from noon to 1:30pm, which is Earth Day, the fair trade committee will hold a celebration during Convocation for attaining fair trade certification. On this day, the committee plans to officially present the certificate to the University. They also plan to hand out information slips to spread awareness and simply inform people about fair trade. There will also be several food vendors, including Ben and Jerry’s and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, handing out food samples. Theo will be providing fair trade chocolate as well.
Alison Sackerson, a junior political science major who will take over the fair trade committee when Fukuji graduates, explained why she believes fair trade is so important.
“To me, fair trade is important because when you purchase a fair trade product you are saying, ‘Yes, I support this product, the business that produced it and the means by which it was created.’ Fair trade encompasses so many things that I feel strongly about, such as sustainable practices and fair wages for producers. If I am purchasing a product, I would like to make sure that it is supporting these things that I feel strongly about, and fair trade certified products can ensure that,” she said.