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          Alternative resources showcased at Fair Trade and Secondhand Expo

          Adam Wisniewski

          Issue date: 3/5/10 Section: Focus
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          Star Rehab, pictured here, creates new clothes out of old clothes and was one of the many vendors at the Fair Trade and Secondhand Expo which attracted over 200 people in Adelbert Gymnasium last Saturday.
          Star Rehab, pictured here, creates new clothes out of old clothes and was one of the many vendors at the Fair Trade and Secondhand Expo which attracted over 200 people in Adelbert Gymnasium last Saturday.
          [Click to enlarge]
          Catherine Packer, here wearing an outfit made up entirely of secondhand clothing, was among the many who participated in the Fair Trade and Secondhand Expo's fashion contest.
          Catherine Packer, here wearing an outfit made up entirely of secondhand clothing, was among the many who participated in the Fair Trade and Secondhand Expo's fashion contest.
          [Click to enlarge]
          The Fair Trade and Second Hand Expo this past Saturday successfully promoted awareness of altruistic and sustainable business models, healthier foods, and the conservation of consumer goods. The goal of the fair trade movement is to help those who independently create goods in our country and developing nations market their wares and ensure that they are rewarded fairly and appropriately for their hard work. The secondhand movement simply seeks to highlight the benefits of purchasing and reusing items, thereby passing on great savings and utility to others.

          The event, held in Adelbert Gym, attracted 24 groups of independent vendors, student organizations, and on-campus sponsors who came to vend fair trade and secondhand goods, distribute information about their principles, and even distribute tasty locally grown or fairly traded treats. In addition to these vendors, the center table was home to the "Case Thrift Store," where attendees were rewarded with raffle tickets for donations of clothing and other sundry items. In turn, these items were sold in order to raise charitable funds for TransFair USA, a nonprofit organization that helps promote fair trade vendors in the competitive world of bigger business.

          An appropriately-themed fashion show took place, hosting a competition between 13 pairs representing various student groups, Greek chapters, and athletic teams. The pairs, consisting of a model and announcer, were challenged to show off and describe either an outfit composed of fair trade clothing from the attending vendors, or an outfit procured at a secondhand shop with a budget of $15 or less. At one point during the fashion show, the ceiling lights in Adelbert Gym suddenly failed, but this so-called problem only increased the dramatic effect and levels of excitement as models walked the lighted runway.

          Two guest speakers respectively preempted the fashion show and spoke during intermission. Carolina Fojo, a fellow of Bon Appetit and former TransFair USA Intern, spoke about fair trade, exemplifying the rights of fair trade coffee farmers. Case Western economics professor Gary Murphy gave a frank and concise speech outlining the importance and usefulness of secondhand shopping, citing Craigslist and the local car rental group CityWheels.

          The brainchild of enterprising student S.K. Piper and an ad hoc committee of students dedicated to its implementation, the event saw great success as it drew in over two hundred attendees who came to shop, eat, and enjoy the show. Piper, overwhelmed by the avalanching organic fruits of the committee's labor, details the hardships in promotion and joy of its success.

          "Seeing the 200-some attendees walking around talking to the vendors, shopping, or watching the fashion show was so inspiring," said Piper.  "Also, getting dozens of emails from students, faculty, and staff interested in learning details about the event after seeing our fliers was amazing; after spending all the hours posting fliers, trifolds, submitting blurbs to newsletters, and having a preview in The Observer, it was great to see that people were noticing." Piper, who is also rallying to have student organizations switch to fair trade T-shirt suppliers for their promotional shirts, provided information on how to make this switch, as well as a logo for fair trade shirts, at the central Case table at the event.

          Some of the representative organizations included such diverse groups as Amnesty International, Bon Appetit, Revive, Goodwill, InterReligious Task Force on Central America, handmade vintage clothing vendor Rock Star Rehab, Plant Kingdom Bakery, Whole Foods, and even Case's own Anime Club. These organizations gathered to promote various initiatives united under the banners of fair trade and Secondhand awareness.

          Jeremy Koosed of the Plant Kingdom Bakery, who specializes in delicious high-protein, hemp-based foods and drinks, cited a need for alternatives to animal products and chemically dependent, genetically modified agriculture in his mission statement.

          "Some of the highest rates of worker injury and migrant worker abuse occur in meat processing plants and slaughterhouses, so I am all about creating jobs that will treat workers fairly and safely," said Koosed, taking pride in the contribution of his business toward this goal.

          A Whole Foods assistant manager, while distributing fresh fair trade bananas, described the Whole Planet Foundation, a Whole Foods-based organization that promotes fair trade by offering microloans to small businesses in developing countries, then marketing those products, such as cosmetics, fruit, snacks, and accessories, in large-chain Whole Foods stores. To highlight the successes of this organization, he explained that the handbags on sale at his table were made possible by the Whole Planet Foundation's offer of a microloan to purchase the creator's first sewing machine.

          Regarding the importance of the event as a whole, Piper explains, "So many people don't realize all of the exploitation, abuse, even child labor that happens in sweatshops overseas, and all the environmental havoc corporations are wreaking on the world.  By buying fair trade or secondhand products, we can harness the immense power we have as consumers and use it for good."

          The Fair Trade and Secondhand Expo attracted a large crowd, promoted many independent businesses and philanthropic organizations, and fed and entertained students, all while spreading information that has tremendous potential to inspire many students to support initiatives that will improve the world and its underlying systems. For more information about the fair trade movement here at CWRU, or an opportunity to acquire fair trade T-shirts for student organizations, please contact .
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