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Chestnut Hill College Hosts Sustainability Conference in Conjunction with Annual Fair Trade Event

Chestnut Hill College Hosts Sustainability Conference in Conjunction with Annual Fair Trade Event

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People shop at last year's fair trade event. --- credit: Brenda Lange

For the fourth consecutive year, Chestnut Hill College will be hosting its annual sustainability conference, and for the first time, will be doing so in conjunction with the fair trade event happening on the same day.

“It’s much more cohesive and really the perfect model for collaboration,” says Mary Elizabeth Clark, SSJ, ED.S., special assistant to the president for sustainability and director of the SSJ Earth Center, located at the College. “It makes perfect sense to do the two together, especially given this year’s theme.”

That theme is global climate change and its effects on all people, but especially the most impoverished. It is a cause that is championed in Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, and something that truly goes hand-in-hand with the fair trade model of people, planet and profit.

“Fair trade’s philosophy is about giving people fair and just wages for the work that they do by selling an item at a fair market price,” Clark explains. “On the surface, it may seem to be more expensive, but it’s a cost that includes those three P’s and one that ultimately benefits all of us in the long-run.”

The College began running the fair trade event shortly after the club Unified 4 Uganda (U4U) was founded on campus. The club, which was founded to help support educational efforts for young children in Africa, adopted the fair trade model and in many ways, so too did the College.

“We worked with our dining services and are proud to be able to say we use fair trade coffee in both the dining hall and Griffin’s Den,” says Marie Conn, Ph.D., professor of religious studies and club advisor to U4U. “We’re also continuing to work with the bookstore and other areas on campus to see how widely fair trade items can be incorporated into all dimensions of campus life.”

Additionally, Clark’s sustainability task force, has affected their own change, increasing visibility and accessibility of recycling on campus, among other green initiatives.

“It’s a slow investment but just knowing that the College is committed to deepening the way our students, faculty and staff care for creation, tells the story of meaningful progress being made,” says Clark, who has been advocating and educating the college community on the importance of sustainable practices since she was first hired back in 2009.

The fair trade event, which will feature an educational component of the value and meaning of fair trade, will welcome vendors selling food products, jewelry, clothing and many other items from 2-3:30 p.m. on November 18th. Following fair trade, all individuals are encouraged to attend the discussion on Laudato Si, which will be led by Clark and a team of faculty from both the science and religious studies departments here on campus.

“I’m very grateful the College is supporting having a lecture on Laudato Si and this incredibly important topic of global climate change and it’s both seen and unseen effects on the world and the poor,” says Clark. “It’s a powerful message and with everything going on the world right now, it’s the right time to really put forth the focus and commitment to making our world a better place, not just for some but for all.”

Marilee Gallagher '14