As Stony Brook University does more and more to make a “greener” campus, the huge festival that is Earthstock continues to be a tradition that informs students and faculty of some other eco-friendly options available to them, as well as changes one could make in his or her day-to-day lives.
One of the staples of the festival is the information about Fair Tade practices and companies. Fair Trade aims to create sustainable practices and farms, recyclable products, produce free of chemicals and ensures labor rights and appropriate wages for workers. One of the most popular areas of Fair Trade is in the coffee industry, with companies like Starbucks and Green Mountain Coffee both helping workers and farmers to earn a stable living through their produce.
At Earthstock, SBU’s Oxfam America chapter and Sobornost for the World Foundation, Inc. had tables promoting Fair Trade. The two groups are non-profit organizations that are supported by donations and try to raise money and awareness in an effort to end extreme hunger and poverty.
According to their website, Oxfam America’s mission is to “create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and social injustice.” The Oxfam table at Earthstock gave away Fair Trade milk and dark chocolate, as well as accepting meal point donations for the organization. The main attraction to the table came from the club’s free pots that festival attendees could fill with soil and plant seeds in, ranging from marigolds and dahlias to cilantro and hot peppers. Club President Nader Nouraee explained the message the Oxfam America table was spreading.
“Right now we’re launching a grow campaign. It’s about spreading awareness of Fair Trade, because there are a lot of farmers and small farm communities that are being exploited by larger corporations, and there’s a lot of injustice going around regarding who gets how many crops and who gets properly paid for their labor,” Nouraee said.
Oxfam America is currently considered one of the best non-governmental organizations in the world and is supported by many other groups, and bands such as Coldplay and Radiohead. Not only does the humanitarian organization support Fair Trade practices that benefit workers and farmers, but the club members at the table were also informing students of the widespread issues of hunger faced by many in impoverished countries.
“It’s estimated that one billion people go to bed hungry every night,” Nouraee said. “That’s one in seven people, so we’re trying to bring an end to that by spreading awareness.”
Further down the academic mall towards the fountain was the table for the World Village Fair Trade Market. The store in Hampton Bays, opened by Sobornost for the World Foundation, Inc., supports countries and their workers in making recyclable and sustainable products in order to earn a living. Members of the organization also help teach these same workers in African and Indian countries how to turn the resources available to them into sellable products.
Some of the items for sale were three-dimensional magnets in the shape of various animals and jewelry made from recycled paper, wall sculptures created from old metal drums and bracelets made from recycled saris in India. Painted pan flutes, whistles and messenger bags were some of the other popular items at the table, and also available at the store and on their website.
Eileen McPhelin, the store’s manager who helped to run the table at Earthstock, said the doors of the World Village Fair Trade Market have been open for ten years selling products from across the globe. She explained what Fair Trade means and the mission of the founding organization, Sobornost for the World Foundation, Inc.
“Fair trade means that all the people who make [the products], all the artisans, are guaranteed a fair living wage and there is no child or slave labor involved,” she said.
McPhelin said that the prices of the goods sold are marked up so that the profits made are put towards taking care of orphans in Kenya and Zambia. “So it’s a double-mission that we have going on,” she added.
The products on sale at the store in Hampton Bays and at the table at Earthstock were made in several different countries including Cambodia, Guatemala, Thailand and India, as well as countries across the African continent. McPhelin described some of the various materials the artisans used to make the pieces that were for sale, such as used rice bags, newspaper clippings and flips flops, but said that not everything is recycled; many things are just indigenous to where the workers live. Organization members also employee themselves to these countries to aid in the manufacturing of these items.
“Usually about six months of the year [members of the organization are] living with these people and helping them to develop so that they can market something…other than what they may be used to doing for hundreds of years. They’re traditionally doing what they like, but then incorporating [ways] to be a little bit more sellable,” McPhelin said.
One of the pledges for the World Village Fair Trade Market was on the front of the pamphlets handed out to buyers at the event: “Providing Fair Trade Products Made with Pride, Sold with Hope, Bought with Conscience.” This reminded event-goers that they were purchasing products that benefited a just cause. Oxfam America and Sobornost for the World Foundation, Inc. will assuredly continue to be definitive and easily accessible non-profit organizations that will spread awareness and help support impoverished families and workers around the globe to create better working and living conditions for as many people they can reach out to as possible.
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