UW-L event promotes a ‘fair trade' holiday

2009-12-01T00:15:00Z UW-L event promotes a ‘fair trade' holidayBy KJ LANG | klang@lacrossetribune.com La Crosse Tribune
December 01, 2009 12:15 am  • 

Lynn Persson sold hand-woven doll clothes, table runners and blouses at her booth. She also told stories and shared pictures of the women who made them.

Persson, of Madison, was selling the items Monday at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse as part of an annual Fair Trade Market set up by The Progressives student organization. The event continues from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. today at the Cartwright Center.

UW-L hosts the event close to Christmas to provide alternative holiday shopping. Buying fair trade goods ensures that farmers or artisans will receive a fair price for what they produce. In exchange, they need to follow certain environmental standards.

UW-L Progressives member Ashley Przedwiecki encouraged people to support fair trade.

"Your gift is important to people around the world and that makes it all the more special," she said.

Guy Wolf, UW-L staff member and advisor for The Progressives, said he initially was hesitant to bring a fair trade market to campus five years ago, as he wasn't sure students could afford the products. He changed his mind after checking the prices.

"The prices are so reasonable," he said. "I think people were surprised."

The number of vendors and shoppers at the market has grown each year, he said. About $8,500 worth of merchandise was sold at the 2008 event.

A mix of students, staff and general public looked over a variety of items Monday, such as a bowl pressed from recycled paper, brightly painted wooden Christmas ornaments, stylish pins made from recycled pop cans, coloring books with words in Spanish and Mayan languages and much more.

The Progressives and other student groups have urged that the campus become fair trade certified, so every vendor that sells items would offer fair trade options, said Wolf. UW-L already sells fair trade at some campus locations such as Kickapoo Coffee in the cafeteria, said Wolf.

Melinda VanSlyke, a Viterbo University graduate from Spring Green, Wis., has brought fair trade goods back from Guatemala to sell at markets and craft fairs for eight years.

"Fair trade is a win-win situation. This is not charity. It is a partnership," she said. "I depend on them and they depend on me."

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