Engineering effort to promote Fair Trade moves to public transit

Engineering students are known for their outlandish pranks, but on March 6, hundreds of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) student volunteers will occupy public transit stations across Canada to reach more than 100,000 commuters in single day. Their mission is to make Canadians aware of how they can personally support Africa by purchasing Fair Trade Certified products. Teams of student volunteers will be armed with information pamphlets and free samples of Cocoa Camino chocolate as they talk about Fair Trade.

Right: Engineering students volunteering with Engineers Without Borders will work to promote Fair Trade during a one-day blitz of public transit on March 6

Raising awareness of Fair Trade is necessary because when Canadians buy products such as chocolate or coffee, they often don’t think about where the product came from, says Paul Slomp, who volunteered overseas with EWB for three years. Slomp explains that for "farmers in developing countries, Fair Trade represents an opportunity for a stable income." The March 6 event will raise awareness among consumers as to how they can impact farmers’ lives and help reduce poverty.

It all begins at York University, at roughly 10:30am, with a banner hanging to celebrate Engineering Week.

Engineers Without Borders volunteers from York University, Ryerson and University of Toronto will join 25 other university chapters, along with Cocoa Camino and TransFair Canada, to spread the message that:

  • In choosing certified Fair Trade products, individuals contribute to poverty alleviation;
  • Fair Trade products are easily and widely available in all cities the event is taking place;
  • By purchasing Fair Trade products, individuals can be confident that the farmer who produced them received a fair wage for his/her work.

Buying Fair Trade products is rapidly becoming a popular way for Canadians to express their belief in global equity. Since 2001, sales of Fair Trade certified products grew annually by 55 per cent in Canada, with the industry reaching $76.6 million in 2006. There are currently over 230 TransFair licensed companies selling Fair Trade Certified products in Canada.

This event follows up on the results of an Environics’ Canada World poll which showed that almost all Canadians believe that Canada can set a positive example for how we contribute globally. The poll also revealed that 47 per cent of Canadians are very concerned about the growing gap between the rich and the poor. According to George Roter, co-CEO of Engineers Without Borders, "Buying Fair Trade is a concrete action that allows individual Canadians to express their desire to make a positive difference in the world."