The undergraduate student government’s president’s office and environmental student groups on campus are teaming up in an effort to make UCLA one of the few colleges and universities in the nation to achieve status as a “Fair Trade” university.
The requirements to become a Fair Trade university include forming a Fair Trade committee, drafting a Fair Trade resolution and making Fair Trade products available in university-owned operations, according to the Fair Trade USA website.
“The primary point of the status is (to show) the progress that’s being made,” said Ilsa Levine, a fourth-year political science student and codirector of external relations in the Undergraduate Students Association Council President’s Office. “(The status is to demonstrate) that we are a Fair Trade university and as we continue to grow and our student body changes these are the practices we will pursue.”
Universities with Fair Trade status offer products that meet a variety of environmental standards, such as restrictions on the use of certain fertilizers, said Joanna Wheaton, a third-year political science student and former copy editor for the Daily Bruin. Wheaton is co-chair of E3 ““ Ecology, Economy, Equity, an environmental student group on campus. A larger percentage of the profits from Fair Trade products goes back to the communities of the farmers that made the products than from those that do not have this designation, she added.
Only six colleges and universities nationwide are recognized as Fair Trade, said David Funkhouser, strategic relations manager at Fair Trade USA, a nonprofit organization that started granting Fair Trade status to colleges and universities in 2008.
UC San Diego is currently the only Fair Trade campus in the University of California system, although UCLA, UC Berkeley and UC Davis are all working on proposals, Funkhouser said.
Once UCLA meets the criteria to apply to be a Fair Trade university, its application will be reviewed by a committee. The committee will include representatives from other colleges and universities, Fair Trade USA and Catholic humanitarian and relief services, Funkhouser said.
Levine said her committee has drafted a Fair Trade resolution, and she said she hopes to apply for Fair Trade status by the end of this academic year.
Both External Relations and the Sustainability Committee in the USAC President’s Office have started collaborating with E3 to organize events that educate students about Fair Trade. The groups are working together to demonstrate UCLA’s commitment to the Fair Trade campaign ““ one of the five conditions of getting Fair Trade University status.
Coffee is the product most associated with Fair Trade, said Niran Somasundaram, a third-year political science and economics student and director of the Fair Trade campaign for E3.
Currently, eight of the nine coffeehouses operated by Associated Students UCLA offer Fair Trade coffee options, said Cindy Bolton, ASUCLA food service director. Fair Trade coffee, however, makes up only about 10 percent of coffee sales, she said.
Fair Trade coffee options became available at UCLA in 2001, Bolton said.
Since there are already Fair Trade products sold in UCLA’s stores, the university has met another one of the requirements Fair Trade USA requires.
“This is the first time that E3 or any organization is really pushing to make UCLA a completely certified Fair Trade university,” Somasundaram said.
Kelsey Ivan, a member of the Sustainability Committee in the USAC President’s office, reached out to E3 in mid-February, asking them to collaborate with this campaign. Ivan, a second-year environmental science student, also created an online petition directed at Chancellor Gene Block on Change.org. The petition has gained more than 190 signatures since Ivan launched it on Feb. 26.
Each time the petition is signed, an email is sent to Block, Ivan said.
Members of the USAC President’s Office and E3 handed out fliers on Bruin Walk last month, giving information about Fair Trade coffee and Alta Gracia clothing, which are sold at ASUCLA stores. The fliers also included a 50-percent-off coupon for any regular Fair Trade coffee at the UCLA coffeehouses.
E3 plans to hold its own Fair Trade week during spring quarter, with the help of the USAC President’s office, Wheaton said. Members of the club will sit outside every coffeehouse on campus that offers Fair Trade coffee, she said.
They will ask students to fill out a four-question survey and in return, students will receive a reusable coffee tumbler with five facts about Fair Trade coffee on it, Wheaton said.
Bolton said ASUCLA will most likely provide the same coupons for E3′s Fair Trade week next quarter.
The Sustainability Committee and External Relations from the USAC President’s office will email the other 12 USAC offices and other environmental groups on campus asking for additional support in the coming weeks, Ivan said.