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Bloomington Becomes Fair Trade Town

The city council approved a resolution that encourages the city to seek out Fair Trade products when purchasing food or beverages.

Chris Sturbaum

Photo: Jimmy Jenkins

Councilman Chris Sturbaum holds a dollar bill while speaking about the power of consumers to effect global change.

Bloomington is officially a “Fair Trade Town.” The city council convened a special session Wednesday night to discuss a resolution officially endorsing a sustainable purchasing policy. Bloomington is now the first town in the state to have such a distinction.

Holding up a dollar bill, Councilman Chris Sturbaum said “I voted for a better world this morning – I voted with this.” Like many Americans, Sturbaum admits to spending a lot of his dollars on coffee. But recently, he’s chosen to drink only fair trade.

“When I spent that dollar – well it was $2.75,” Sturbaum chuckled. “That $2.75 said ‘I care who made this coffee. I care how well they can take care of their children. I care how their community survives or doesn’t survive.’”

Sturbaum presented the resolution to designate Bloomington as a “Fair Trade Town.” While Bloomington is the first community in Indiana to take such a step, the city joins more than 30 other Fair Trade Towns around the country.

According to Fare Trade USA – a national non-profit certification group – fair trade products are guaranteed to be the result of fair and safe working conditions, responsible environmental practices and a fair price paid to the producer.

Mary Embry is the founder and board president of Fair Trade Bloomington. Her group has lead the effort seeking the designation by garnering support from local organizations and companies. Involving city government was the last step in the process.

When asked if the fair trade movement detracts from the local food movement, Embry said the two actually go hand in hand. She says fair trade practices are a big part of helping small communities in foreign countries sustain their way of life.

“I’m just talking about localization wherever it is,” Embry said. “Fair trade does not exclude the local – they are the same message of investing in people and the environment.”

Embry noted fair trade commodities such as coffee are goods that cannot be produced in Indiana anyway, so there is no direct competition.

Language in the resolution directs the city to seek out Fair Trade products when purchasing food, beverages or concessions. But as Councilman Sturbaum says, it’s not a mandate – it’s more of an effort to make people aware of their individual purchasing power.

“That’s the beauty of this revolution,” Sturbaum said. “It’s little small actions that all add up to something big.”

The resolution passed seven to zero with Councilman Marty Spechler abstaining.

Jimmy Jenkins

Jimmy Jenkins is a multimedia journalist for WFIU and WTIU news. A native of Terre Haute, he is a masters student at the Indiana University School of Journalism and is proud to be a part of the public broadcasting stations he listened to and watched since he was a child. Follow him on Twitter @newsjunkyjimmy.

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