Fair Trade is NOT a Trend

Fair Trade is NOT a Trend

Blog post #11

Anna Ver Beek &  Sarah Parker

The PLNU bookstore has a variety of selections that support school participation and pride and many practical items for college students including books, school supplies, water bottles, lanyards, and cards (for when they remember to write that thank you note they should have weeks ago).  They also sell fashion items like jewelry, hats, and scarves. The fashion items include jewelry from a company called 31 Bits that helps empower the women in Uganda who make it. But, unlike the cards, these bracelets are not one of the top selling small items in the bookstore.31 Bits Bracelets

According to the bookstore manager, the 31 Bits bracelets “were brought in to be part of [the] fall/winter trend table, the main goal of the table was giving back”. This is a great place to start. But is this table encouraging ethical consumption or is it just an attempt to boost the image of the On campus bookstore? The giving table, covered in small items that are not bought on a daily basis by the average PLNU student sends the message that shopping ethically may be trendy, but isn’t necessary.

We don’t want to discourage the effort of the bookstore to buy ethically and support organizations like 31 Bits. In fact, we applaud these efforts and believe that it is a major step in the right direction. However, we believe that buying ethically and sustainably produced products is not a trend, it is a responsibility. If we do not fulfill this responsibility then we are actively participating in the mistreatment and disenfranchisement of the poor, as well as the degradation of the environment. If the bookstore agrees, then they should look for socially and environmentally responsible producer for all their products, especially their “top sellers.”

Books and apparel aside, the bookstore’s top selling item is greeting cards. The bookstore purchases these cards from a company called “Sunrise Greetings,” which is owned and operated by Hallmark Co. While Hallmark is not on the list of 2013 corporate villains and has never had a Nike-like sweatshop scandal, it is a transnational corporation with the sole intention of making as much profit as it can. Hallmark does not:

  • Give back to the community
  •  Source locally
  • Assure that the trees used for its cards are harvested sustainably
  • Use recycled paper products

Hallmark CardsIf Point Loma’s bookstore truly wants to make some changes then it should start by choosing a socially and environmentally responsible company for its top selling items. Greeting cards would be a good place to start. Good Paper is a company that sells handmade-fairtrade-ecofreindly cards. I’m sure they would love our business!

Right now you’re probably thinking: “well that all sounds great, but I bet those cards cost twice as much as the Hallmark cards.” If that’s what crossed your mind, then you are totally right. The main reason the bookstore isn’t selling exclusively social and environmentally responsible products is that we (the consumers) aren’t willing to pay for it. Remember the 31 Bits bracelets we were talking about earlier? Well, a month or two ago they were selling for around $10, but a few weeks ago the price dropped to around $5. Prices drop for a variety of reasons, but the most likely cause is that not enough bracelets were sold, so the prices dropped to get rid of them and make way for new merchandise. Even if the bookstore is genuine and well intentioned, if it can’t sell ethically made products, it has no incentive to buy them.

Notice, that your role as the consumer puts a lot of power (and responsibility) into your hands. We will leave you with some food for thought: Do you think ethical consumption is merely a part of the fall/winter trend? If you do, then the bookstore, and every other company you buy from will continue to cut corners, pay unfair wages, destroy the environment and operate without concern for the greater good of the community. If ethical consumption is just a trend, then we will continue to buy the trendy fair trade coffee and pour it into Wal-Mart mugs. However, if we believe that God calls us to “Say no to wrong. Learn to do good. Work for justice. Help the down-and-out (Isaiah 1:17),” then our purchases MUST reflect our faith. Get used to paying the price for ethical products, and encourage the retailers you buy from to do the same!

By: Anna Ver Beek & Sarah Parker

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Fair Trade is NOT a Trend

7 thoughts on “Fair Trade is NOT a Trend

  1. Hailey Fulcher says:

    I would love to see the bookstore and the other stores on campus buy into selling main products that come from ethical businesses. A great point is made about how the little table in the bookstore houses trendy ethical trinkets….yet their main selling product is not considered ethical. It would seem that we are missing the mark when it comes to the reason behind ethical buying. Are we trying to make an impact? Or are we trying to appear to be making an impact? Lets make a change!!!

  2. Maritza Vick says:

    I think it would be awesome if the bookstore sold more merchandise that came form ethical businesses. However, I think it would be more helpful if they also advertised that they were selling fair trade items. To be honest, I generally don’t know what items are fair trade or not unless it is actually labeled. As people are becoming more aware about ethical businesses, they seem to be more willing to help out but generally don’t know how. With the option of purchasing fair trade that are well labeled, I think more people would be willing to help out. I think the main issue to overcome is public awareness.

  3. Olivia says:

    I would also love to see this movement be treated as something more than a trend on our campus. I really appreciate the steps that you are taking to inform others about this! Just as Maritza said, I don’t know much about which products are made ethically, so I think it would be so great to have those clearly marked products in the bookstore.

  4. Alex says:

    I just started using better world shopper! It has been very revealing and super informative to some of the everyday purchases I make and about the stores that I purchase from. I know that it would be improbable for them to cover every product or company but the app has some really great coverage.
    I think it would be awesome if the bookstore had some more advertising of its current fair trade products and if it were to stock up on some more fair trade items that they sell more often like paper, school supplies and greeting cards.

  5. Luke says:

    I believe this is a very good idea! I had no clue about any of these products. If the bookstore can do a better job of advertising these products and letting everyone know the background of specific companies than I believe this would be a great movement. If people are aware of who or what they are helping, people will be more inclined to purchase the more expensive option. Make it happen!

  6. Wesley Lerg says:

    I think your point is quite valid! The fact that the bookstore is trying to sell ethical items is great! I would agree with Olivia in making it more visible to buyers that it is an ethical product. I would also suggest that, even though that it can be more expensive, to try to incorporate more environmentally friendly products. Start with small things and see how they sell, it will help the store and the earth in the long-run.

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