Thursday, October 02, 2008

Fair Trade Playing it Forward in the Midwest

First off, happy Fair Trade month to all here in the United States! Last weekend, I was gearing up for the big month with a few speaking engagements in Michigan. It was a great chance to celebrate an Fair Trade retailer, Kirabo, as well as talk with consumers, including several students who volunteer at the store as well as turned out for the talk and a coffee cupping. I heard that Michigan State University was the first school to go 100% Fair Trade with coffee in their dining-halls, which I confess surprised me a bit (I had thought it was Cornell). Anybody out there in blogland who can confirm?

In any case, it was great to be with the people of Michigan, including Jody and Chris Tretter, who run the amazing Higher Grounds coffee house and roastry in Traverse City. If you want to experience fully committed Fair Traders in action, check out their operations. They embrace the Fair Trade model as much as possible, for example paying living wages and health care to their employees, and protecting the environment by not using "to go" cups (customers donate mugs which others can borrow or keep!). Environmental sustainability was the topic of my talk, and when I got home the theme continued to be at the fore-front of my mind.

Going through my mail when I returned to my apartment, I saw my royalty statement from my book publisher, Oneworld. I confess I was pretty pleased to learn that more than 5,200 copies of the book had been sold since its debut in May 2007. But the news just kept getting better. A colleague of mine, Laura Strickland (see photo below courtesy of CRS], sent me a story about how she has been using the book for education and saving a few trees in the process!

At the end of our [CRS Fair Trade training] in Seattle we were invited to take extras of what was on the table. I chose to take an extra copy of your book. When I returned home I wanted to share the book with others so I decided to put a note in the book. It was a very simple note. 'When finished reading this book please sign it and pass it on to someone else you think would be interested in reading about Fair Trade.' I signed it Laura Strickland, CRS Fair Trade Ambassador, and I also put in my phone number. I did this in June 08 as soon as I returned from Seattle....I recently had a message left on my phone form a gentleman in Wisconsin. The message was telling me he was now reading Fair Trade: A Beginners Guide. He also told me that he was the 16th person to sign the book and that it has been in 6 states. It has traveled a good distance from Kitty Hawk NC to Wisconsin.
I really appreciate Laura sharing that story! Although I can't proclaim that my book is published on post-consumer recycled paper using planet-friendly inks, it does my conscience good to know that others are reusing my book as a way to decrease consumption during Fair Trade month and all year long.

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