By Fabian Mayer, September 24 2015 —
After three years of work, the University of Calgary has finally been designated a fair trade campus.
The announcement was made on Sept. 21 at the Sustainability Resource Centre. The U of C is the first campus in Alberta and the 10th in Canada to attain the certification.
Student club Engineers Without Borders (EWB) is behind the effort to make the U of C a fair trade campus. Club members Keon Ma and Linda Zhao spearheaded the project. Ma said the hardest part was getting all the various groups on campus on board.
“All of them have to be involved in order to get the designation so that was a more drawn out process, but I’m glad everything came together,” Ma said.
The Fair Trade Campus program is run by non-profit organization Fairtrade Canada. To receive certification, universities must form a fair trade steering committee, offer fair trade products and engage in awareness in education.
The Students’ Union, Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) and campus food provider Aramark all had to incorporate fair trade options into their food locations. A push to get the designation failed in 2014 when the GSA did not meet the requirements.
Ma said EWB has been working to raise awareness around fair trade for many years. The group holds regular “Fair Trade Friday” events where they offer free fair trade coffee to get people interested in the initiative.
“It’s a really important issue that we kind of take for granted a lot of times,” Ma said.
He admitted fair trade isn’t a perfect system, but hopes it will force people to think about where their food comes from.
“We might be striving for the best deals at the supermarket but then when you think about the other side, maybe they’re struggling to survive. Maybe they’re not making enough for a living,” Ma said.
Associate director of food and conference services Jill Blackie said she is excited about the designation and highlighted the student involvement in the project. She also stressed the difficulties of coordinating with all the different parties involved.
“Everybody that was part of the proposal was very amicable to switching over,” Blackie said.
Blackie believes universities can play a significant role in spreading awareness.
“It’s a status that recognizes the leadership of Canadian colleges and universities,” Blackie said. “It has a global impact.”
A committee made up of the various stakeholders will meet quarterly to ensure the U of C retains its status.