New student organization wants to bring fair trade to the UI

A student-led movement is working to make the UI a fair trade certified university by making ethical changes in the dining halls and retail stores.


Lily Smith

The Old Capitol is seen on Nov. 25, 2018.

Rylee Wilson, News Reporter

A new student organization, Fair Trade at Iowa, wants to make the University of Iowa a certified fair-trade university and educate students and the Iowa City community about the value of the fair-trade movement.

Fair Trade at Iowa is one of 112 campaigns at universities across the country partnered with Fair Trade Campaigns, a national organization that promotes fair trade.

Fair Trade at Iowa’s Zach Rochester said goals of the fair-trade movement include providing fair wages and safe working conditions for farmers, reducing child labor, and promoting organic farming.

“The main purpose of the fair-trade movement is to put people and planet over profit,” Rochester said.

The first goal of Fair Trade at Iowa, he said, is to work with UI Student Government and university administration to implement a resolution to commit to offering more fair-trade products.

Currently, Loras College in Dubuque is the only university in the state that has passed a fair-trade resolution, according to Fair Trade Campaigns.

“[Becoming fair-trade-certified] entails … sourcing fair-trade products through UI dining and cafés and ensuring they are providing at least two fair-trade products, whether that be sugar, coffee, tea, or bananas,” Rochester said. “Those are the most accessible products to get fair trade, as they’re a little bit on the lower price point.”

UISG Sen. Sarah Henry works with Fair Trade at Iowa to help implement its goals through student government.

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“Iowa needs a team of people to work on fair-trade projects, to work with campus partners to get fair-trade-certified products on campus and in offices/departments, to host educational events, and pass a resolution saying all of these things will happen and that we support moving toward being a fair-trade university,” Henry said in an email to The Daily Iowan. “Being a fair-trade university will help bring sustainability, among other things, to the center of our university.”

Fair Trade at Iowa hopes to make changes not only at the UI but in the Iowa City community, which also has an active campaign with Fair Trade Campaigns.

Fair Trade at Iowa President Anna Clowser said she is optimistic about partnering with fair-trade organizers in the community.

“I think that’s what makes the UI and Iowa City such a great place for fair trade to happen,” she said. “Because there’s so much interaction between the community and the campus, it’s ideal for creating a fair-trade community.”

Rochester said possible future community events could include screening documentaries and fair trade fashion shows, as well as reaching out to Iowa City retailers to provide more fair trade products.

Fair Trade at Iowa currently meets biweekly on Mondays. It has drawn interest from a wide array of UI students of all ages and majors, Clowser said.

The organization hopes to continue to educate students about fair trade, Rochester said.

“Buying a banana with a fair-trade sticker on it makes a really huge difference,” he said. “There are a lot of little ways that people can change their purchasing habits to make a big difference.”