Breanna Atkinson and Naomi Harris distribute literature outlining the benefits of fair trade practicesBreanna Atkinson (right) and Naomi Harris distribute literature outlining the benefits of fair trade practices, Wednesday in the CAW Student Centre.

Fair trade products and practices gain campus advocates

While working on a coffee farm in Ecuador, Breanna Atkinson gained an appreciation for the benefits of fair trade. Now she is trying to instill that appreciation across the campus.

“If the Canadian climate allowed us to grow coffee here, we would make sure that our workers were treated right,” says Atkinson, a student of modern languages and an executive with the Windsor chapter of Engineers Without Borders, responsible for promoting fair trade. “If we could see what goes on, I think people would care more.”

Fair trade seeks to guarantee better compensation for producers, as well as standards on labour practices and environmental sustainability. Atkinson says the central concept is respect.

“It’s important to treat people respectfully,” she says. “We tend to forget the person behind the product, whether it’s coffee or bananas.”

She heads a team campaigning this week to promote fair trade products on campus. Volunteers have been selling handicrafts and staples like sugar, tea and coffee. Thursday they will distribute 200 fair trade bananas in the CAW Student Centre and Toldo Health Education Centre.

Food Services donated brewed carafes of Brown Gold coffee to encourage the student effort, says department head Dave McEwen.

“We have a long-term plan to earn fairtrade designation for the campus,” he says. “The most important part of that is to engage the students, so we can build continuity and a succession plan.”

Atkinson agrees that partnership between students and the University administration is crucial to success.

“I am so happy that Dave is committed to this issue,” she says. “We can bring awareness to campus and that leads to working with other countries to make the world better.”