Since I joined Frogs for Fair Trade at the beginning of last semester, I have been asked the same question concerning my hats, stickers, T-shirts and temporary tattoos: “What is fair trade?”Fair Trade is a very difficult thing to define, and I think each “Fair Trader” you ask will give you somewhat of a different answer.
I have heard Fair Trade described as an organization of conscious consumers whose goal is to create as much social justice in the world as possible. I have heard Fair Trade described as a charity in which we pay extra money for coffee so people in developing countries have the ability to provide their families with a better life. Although both of these descriptions hold elements of truth, there is more to be said concerning Fair Trade.
Fair Trade is a way of life, a call to the ethical consumption of products, but being a “Fair Trader” does not require you to give up hours of time, thousands of dollars or your health. Fair Trade can be as simple as which cup of coffee you buy at Starbucks or as complex as which materials you use to build your new house.
TCU’s mission statement reads as follows: “To educate individuals to think and act as ethical leaders and responsible citizens in the global community.” Many people get caught up on that word – “ethical.” But our behavior is not consistently ethical.
Unfortunately, our consumption consistently depends on which product is of the highest quality for the cheapest price. As a struggling college student, I sometimes struggle to pay my rent, utilities and truck payment; why should I worry about someone else when I am barely squeezing by? But this leads us to unethical buying activities. Many coffee bean farmers in South America are leaving the coffee business. Do you know where they’re going? They’re growing cocaine because it pays better.
We could slow the production of this illegal drug, raise substandard living conditions, and provide minimal education advantages and a healthy life simply by choosing different brands of coffee, bananas, T-shirts – anything!
I mentioned that Fair Trade was not a charity. It isn’t. Fair Trade calls for a fair wage for products.
I leave you with a simple challenge: When you go to the store, ask for Fair Trade products; when you see Fair Trade coffee in Jazzman’s, Frogbytes, the bookstore or the library, drink it. The world will thank you for it.
John Williamson is a sophomore religion major from Brady.