St. Mary’s University on Monday became the first institution of higher education in Texas to achieve Fair Trade University status.
Fair trade is a social movement that helps producers in developing countries work in safe conditions, improve the lives of their families, and earn extra money to invest in their communities.
Producers – often children – of coffee, tea, chocolate, handicrafts and other products in developing countries often work in poor conditions and are paid less than a living wage. Producing some of these commodities may damage the environment. By purchasing fair trade products, consumers increase global quality of life, protect the environment and ensure the production of high quality goods.
St. Mary’s is the 28th institution of higher education in the nation to receive the designation by Fair Trade Colleges and Universities – and the first of the three Marianist universities, including the University of Dayton and Chaminade University of Honolulu.
“What we buy, eat and drink impacts people and the environment around the world,” said University President Thomas Mengler, J.D. “This is a vital step in living our Catholic and Marianist mission on campus.”
The mission calls for St. Mary’s to educate leaders for the common good, and it is inspired by the Characteristics of Marianist Universities, which call the institutions to educate for service, justice and peace.
St. Mary’s has worked with its food service contractor to make fair trade-certified foods, beverages and items available in its dining facilities, convenience stores and University-hosted catered meetings. The University bookstore also offers fair trade products. With the assistance of a fair trade committee of students, faculty and staff, the University demonstrates its commitment to sustainability by educating the campus about fair trade and encouraging the community to support the effort.
To promote awareness and to celebrate the fair trade designation, free fair trade coffee and chocolate will be available to the campus community on April 29. Time and location will be finalized soon.
The University will not incur increased costs because the cost of fair trade goods will be reflected in the sales price. Fair trade products often are slightly more expensive, because of the fair wages paid to the producers, the investment in their communities, and the cost of transporting goods not purchased at bulk rates.
Students Mydori Nomura (B.B.A. ’14) and Becky Montes (B.B.A. ’14) helped start the University’s fair trade initiative in 2013, when they formed the campus fair trade committee. Fair trade principles also have been covered in courses taught by Zaida Martinez, Ph.D., Professor of International Business; and Clare Acosta Matos, the campus Minister for Social Justice and Catholic Relief Services Fair Trade Ambassador.
In summer 2014, St. Mary’s received a $1,000 grant from Fair Trade USA, which was used to hire a fair trade intern and buy promotional materials. Also, University Ministry holds an annual fair trade holiday gift sale in the University Center.