York University students can show off their school spirit and social conscience at the same time, with a new line of fair-trade T-shirts. Launched in 2011, the fair trade T-shirts were considered a first among Canadian universities.
The York-branded T-shirts were produced by the growing York-based student enterprise, the Green Campus Co-op. The students are committed to fair trade while wanting to offer clothing at a student-friendly price. The T-shirts are available at the York University Bookstore, Keele Campus.
The shirts are made of 100 per cent fair trade organic cotton certified by Fairtrade Canada, a member of Fairtrade International. They retail for $16.95.
“It is particularly satisfying that we are able to price these shirts without the usual premium price that makes people think twice about doing the right thing,” says Steve Glassman, director of the bookstore.
Professor Darryl Reed of York’s Business and Society Program in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies has mentored the Green Campus Co-op through its development, in partnership with the York Bookstore and support from an enthusiastic board composed of students, faculty and alumni. Reed has also fostered direct ties with producer co-ops and social enterprises in India, where the cotton is grown, ginned and fabricated into the final product for Canada. Customized imprinting can be done locally for groups or for special events.
Non-Organic cotton growers in India are exposed to any of 118 different pesticides, commonly without protection. Depressed prices and pressures to adopt unsustainable practices have resulted in economic, environmental and social problems, including high suicide rates among small cotton farmers, says Reed. Fair trade production helps to ensure protection for small producers by offering long term contracts and minimum prices, along with other supports.
The University Bookstore holds its holiday sale from Nov. 21 to Dec. 22. The sale features clothing, books, discount and remaindered books, and other specials. The Fair Trade T-shirts will be included in this massive annual sale.