UBC named Canada's first Fair Trade Campus
Published Thursday, May 5, 2011 5:07PM PDT
There's something different about the way the University of British Columbia wakes up and smells the coffee in the morning – the steaming caffeine poured into warm mugs across campus is fair trade.
UBC just became the first Fair Trade Campus in Canada. The Fair Trade Canada designation follows Vancouver's recognition as a Fair Trade City this time last year.
Coffee, tea and chocolate bars sold at UBC and student society AMS-run eateries are ethically purchased and provide equitable compensation to farmers for their product.
The commitment does not include campus franchises – Starbucks, Tim Hortons and White Spot.
Kaan Williams is the director of fair trade with the UBC chapter of Engineers Without Borders. He was instrumental in pushing the designation initiative forward.
"It's not just a recognition of past activity at UBC," he said. "It's also a commitment to retain the momentum that UBC has."
The campus had already put into effect many policies fitting with Fair Trade Canada's designation requirements. UBC has offered fair trade coffee for the past decade; the campus sold nearly 1.5 million cups of fair trade coffee in the last year alone.
"All the reactions I've heard so far were enthusiastic and excited," Williams said. "People are excited to see some recognition for what's going on here at UBC."
Only a few extra steps had to be put in place to meet designation restrictions.
The campus dedicated itself to using fair trade products whenever possible, Williams said. That's why it's gone beyond the minimum requirements of the designation.
Fair Trade Canada asks that Fair Trade Campuses sell only fair trade coffee and offer at least three fair trade teas and one fair trade chocolate bar option.
Nearly all of the teas offered at UBC are fair trade and campus eateries are also selling fair trade tropical fruit such as bananas.
"We're always looking for new things to use as well," Williams said.
The designation has already fueled action by local businesses.
Vancouver-based coffee companies Milano and Ethical Bean have jumped on board. Milano produced its first fair-trade certified blend of coffee for UBC.
And there's buzz in the air of fair trade designation hopes at several other Canadian universities. Williams has already been contacted by other institutions interested in following UBC's example.
Andrew Parr is the managing director of UBC student housing and hospitality services. He was closely involved in the designation.
He said the campus wasn't aiming to be the first fair-trade certified in Canada, but he said he thinks it's a nice message to other institutions.
"This is something that is feasible and doable and worth doing," Parr said.
The initiative is a matter of educating students on something more than the subject matter they study in the classroom, Parr said, adding he hopes the move can help UBC students become more socially-conscious citizens.
"That's a nice way that we as an institution are able to make an influence in a broader community," he said.
UBC joins 100 global universities that have already made the commitment.