Fair Trade Bazaar swaps knowledge with students

by Anna Weggel

Students were able to peruse aisles of merchandise and purchase items with the knowledge that they were helping someone out Wednesday at Coffman Union.

Several campus groups and various retailers hosted the Fair Trade Bazaar, which allowed students to purchase items labeled as “fair trade.”

The Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, the Minnesota Programs and Activities Council, Amnesty International, the global studies department and the Lutheran Student Movement hosted the event.

Elizabeth Slagle, a neuroscience junior and fair trade coordinator for MPIRG, sold fair trade bracelets, necklaces and assorted figurines to passing students and University staff.

“We put on the event so students can have the opportunity to learn about fair trade and purchase things that are fair trade,” Slagle said.

Slagle said fair trade “cuts out all the in-betweens” and makes sure the product goes almost directly from the provider to the consumer, therefore, ensuring sure the provider receives a fair amount of the profit.

“It’s a movement that helps to alleviate poverty by guaranteeing that people get fair price for products they make,” she said.

Slagle said buying such products is a positive and proactive solution to trade problems.

“If I buy this, I know I’m helping the person who made it,” she said. “It’s a simple, easy way to make a difference.”

Wendy Diedrich, president of Amnesty International at the University, said her organization hosted a booth at the event to raise visibility of her group.

“A lot of (Amnesty International) members have the same ideals as MPIRG,” she said. “Amnesty International has name recognition, but people aren’t exactly sure what we do.”

Diedrich said she thinks the event helped students to learn about fair trade.

“They can see what’s going on in the world and do something about it,” she said. “They’re given the problem and an immediate path to the solution.”

University graduate Andy Lambert sold coffee and other assorted items from Peace Coffee, which provides fair trade organic coffee from seven different countries.

Lambert said his company visits schools often to talk to students.

“People are very interested in fair trade,” he said. “Once people understand, the concept will solve itself.”

Lambert said that besides benefiting the provider, the coffee tastes different from name-brand coffee.

“The quality is notable,” he said. “Try Peace Coffee, then try Starbucks.”

School of Public Health employee Sarah Tschida stopped by the event and purchased Peace Coffee and a candle holder from Pakistan. Both will be Christmas presents, she said.

“I do believe it’s important to buy fair trade products,” she said.