From interest group to club, juniors lead club and campus to a fair, sustainable future

Regan Driscoll

Equinox Staff


Nine courses mentioned it last year, 14 professors used it in their classroom, 13 presentations were given about it, and nearly 400,000 dollars worth of its products were sold on campus last year.

So what is it?  It’s fair trade, and the 2011 Fair Trade report indicates above that the KSC club is on the move.

Sophomore and Fair Trade Club member Katy McLaughlin followed up, “A lot of people don’t know what fair trade is really about.”  How can anyone care about something, let alone even be interested in it, if they don’t even understand what it is?

Professor Tamara Stenn, Fair Trade Club advisor, said, from a consumer’s perspective, “It is a way of making a conscious decision of how you are participating in trade and taking into consideration how workers are being paid, treated, environmental protection, the different benefits the relationship would have, how you would make a purchase in a meaningful way that is respectful of the environment, other people’s cultures, and that enables workers to have a living wage.”

Fair Trade USA offered the Fair Trade Club a chance to speak at the second annual National Conference for Fair Trade this month.

“We had the opportunity to get, I guess a scholarship grant to go out there,” Kelsey Bumstead, club president explained. Bumsted said she plans to give a presentation with a student from a college in New York about what it takes to put together events and activities on campus about fair trade.

Bumsted, Stenn, Sustainability Professor Mary Jensen,  and Lisa Bryant and Grace Healey, other club members, will all attend the conference the last weekend of October in Chicago. The Fair Trade Club began as an interest group in 2010 after Stenn’s Measuring Fair Trade Class inspired Bumsted.

She said seeing videos of how the workers are affected and how fair trade improves their lives is what really impacted her and got her motivated to start the group saying, “It just resonated with us.”

The club became official in November 2011. Originally there were only a handful of members, which has now doubled to about 10 to 15 students.

The club has worked on promoting fair trade through events and products within the college. “Part of our club works with trying to educate students on where products are, where you can buy them, what fair trade is, publicizing it,” Bumsted said.

Currently there are fair trade t-shirts sold at the bookstore and a variety of items at Lloyd’s, including all Green Mountain Coffee.  This year, with an official budget, even more is in the works.

Some changes include ideas for Pumpkin Lobotomy and Harvest Fest.  Instead of just having a table set up, “this year we’re trying to order coffee mugs that say Fair Trade Club on it and then have a bean bag toss with fair trade coffee beans,” Bryant explained.

“We’d also like to bring fair trade hot cocoa,” Bumsted added.

Bumsted, Bryant, and Healey said their biggest goal is to have KSC officially recognized as a fair trade college.

“We have the requirements,” Bryant explained. “You have to have fair trade products on campus, some form of an interest group, and have fair trade events. Our final step is to get accepted by the president. It goes with the moral code of our school,” she said.

Bumsted added, “Fair Trade USA recognizes us as a Fair Trade University, we can’t promote ourselves as that, but we’ve been approved by them.”

A first timer at a club meeting who wished to remain unnamed said she, “was really impressed by how knowledgeable they [the club leaders] are on the subject and at all of the events they have going on.”

Fair Trade Club meetings take place every Wednesday at 8 p.m. in room 309 in the Student Center.

The club also holds movie nights, which feature films about fair trade.

Bumsted shared, “I think it’s what brings fair trade to a personal level because you can really see why we’re doing what we’re doing.”

Emma Kash, the club’s secretary, said, “To see the faces of all those affected by fair trade touches my heart.”

The club has a Keene State Fair Trade Club Facebook page for information regarding what is going on, what’s up and coming, or when movie nights are.

Greg Lefko, a junior, said his favorite part about the club is “raising awareness to issues people may not know so much about.”

Katy McLaughlin said she joined the Fair Trade Club wanting to inform people about the subject because she said she feels, “What we do here impacts other people. It really benefits the people that do the work. There’s no middle and that’s really important because they deserve it, the products they make are unique.”

Why aren’t more people buying goods that are fair trade?

“I think that sometimes people think it’s going to be a lot more to buy a fair trade product, but what they don’t realize is that it’s only slightly different most times,” Bumsted said.

Bryant included, “It’s usually better quality, it tastes better, it’s organic, it’s made better.” So why should people buy fair trade products?  “Why not?” Healey asked.  “It’s helping people, it’s better for the environment, it’s better for yourself,” she said.

Bumsted added, “It’s ethical spending.”

Bryant said, “If you can buy something that benefits a whole bunch of things rather than just yourself, that’s a step forward.”

“You can look at fair trade as just a product, but there’s also a personal level…you’re going to buy product that you know someone will take home the money they deserve for it to provide for their family instead of being cheated out of something that is out of their hands,” Bumsted explained.

Bryant said for her, “it’s mostly about appreciation…people are making stuff for you, so you should give it back.”

“It shouldn’t just be an alternative,” she went on, “it’s how it should be.”

On Nov. 14 there will be a fair trade fashion show in the Mabel Brown Room at 8 p.m.  It will include pieces from Stenn’s clothing line KUSIKUY.  The club is still looking for models for the show, so if interested any student can contact a club member.

Students can also get involved by submitting designs for KUSIKUY’s college line.

The third annual Keene State College Fair Trade Fair will take place on Nov. 15, which features a variety of fair trade companies or organizations.  The number of businesses already surpassed that of last year, some of which include Project Have Hope, Maine Root Soda, 10,000 Villages, A Thread of Hope, Guatemala Fair Trade, Howling Coffee from Compas de Nicaragua and Badger Lip Balm.


            Regan Driscoll can be contacted at






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