Fairtrade Fornight: our top 5 ways to be Fairtrade

Here at QMUL we’re very proud of being a Fairtrade University (certified since 2012!). But we were really sad to read in the national newspapers that the sales of Fairtrade products have fallen for the first time in the Fairtrade Foundation’s 20 year history. Although Fairtrade is certainly alive in the cafes, restaurants and shops at QMUL, it’s a shame to see a move away from it elsewhere, especially when the issues of unfair payment to growers is far from solved.

When we’re out on campus, we regularly get questions about why people should bother to spend a little bit more on Fairtrade products, when normal ones taste just as good. There is not simple, quick or necessarily rational answer to this question. Emotionally, there exists a huge case for buying Fairtrade products. For example, in the last 10 years, the UK supermarket sector has almost halved the shelf price of loose bananas while the cost of producing them has doubled, trapping many of the farmers and workers who grow them in a cycle of poverty. Does that sound fair to you? To us, it certainly doesn’t.

However, we appreciate that when you’re just looking to buy a chocolate bar in Sainsbury’s between lectures arguments like this probably aren’t factored into your decision. That’s why we’ve put together this blog piece outlining our 5 top ways to be Fairtrade this Fairtrade Fortnight. Check them out below:

1. Buy your food at QMUL or QMSU outlets!

There’s nothing like a bit of shameless self promotion, but this one is really easy to do. If you’re on campus and hungry- head to one of the University or Student Union outlets that are covered by our Fairtrade certification. Fairtrade certified tea, coffee, snacks and drinks are all available. Plus there’s the added benefit of not having to walk as far to get your fuel. It’s a win-win really. Equally, if you’re looking to buy some QMUL branded clothing- that’s Fairtrade too!

2. Find out what’s Fairtrade at your local supermarket, and support those product ranges.

A lot of staff and students at QMUL live in the Greater London area where there’s a high population density. This often means that you’ll have a great range of stores to shop at, and that you can often choose between multiple stores who sell food at similar prices. We’re not suggesting everybody starts spending extortionate amounts of money at Whole Food, Waitrose or Planet Organic. For example, almost all of the bananas at Sainsbury’s are Fairtrade, but that very few at Asda or Tesco are? Or that the Co-operative’s own brand tea is 100% Fairtrade? Google your supermarket, and find out about its commitment to Fairtrade.

3. Carry out a product swap.

Doing 1 small thing is always going to be better than doing nothing at all. Identify one product you buy on a regular basis and make a concerted effort to purchase Fairtrade. The best advice we can give in doing this is to identify something that you buy in great quantities, and that isn’t perishable so that it’s easier to plan your purchase. Tea, for example, is something that I buy on a monthly basis. I know about a week ahead of time that I’m going to run out of tea because, being a creature of habit, I drink 1 cup of tea every morning when I get up. I’m not buying it in a hurry, so I can plan to purchase a Fairtrade product. Coffee, sugar, cocoa powder, and hot chocolate are all good examples for this.

4. Think Fairtrade is too expensive? Keep an eye on the Fairtrade Foundation’s website or Twitter stream for details of offers.

This is mainly a bit of a myth- supermarket own brands in particular provide good quality, Fairtrade products at very affordable prices. Sometimes products are even in their value ranges. My hot chocolate powder is both tasty, Fairtrade, and Sainsbury’s basics (allowing me to drinking a shocking amount of it on a rainy Sunday afternoon…). But there are certain products that are more expensive, and this is where offers come in. You can follow them here, or check them out here. A lot of the offers they advertise are perfect for presents, or even treats for yourself.

5. It’s not just about food.

Don’t forget, it’s not just things we eat that can exploit people in far off countries. Cotton, gold, flowers and beauty products are all available in Fairtrade forms. Going back to tip 2, many of these products are things that we purchase in a planned way- we knwo about a birthday, Mother’s Day, Valentines day etc well in advanced. That makes it really easy to make purchases principles when in comes to these sorts of items. To find out more about what products you can buy Fairtrade, check out this website page.

If you’ve got any questions about Fairtrade, or if you’ve noticed a gap in the market for a Fairtrade product at QMUL email sustainability@qmul.ac.uk. We hope our little guide has got you thinking about where Fairtrade products can fit into your life, and how you can make a difference!

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