Avoiding the corporate holiday hijack

I don’t know about you, but for me, the “holiday” season is a time of year that is completely psychotic.   The music, the shopping… aren’t holidays supposed to be periods of respite from stress and the opportunity to rejuvenate oneself from the daily repetitive tasks of a hamster-wheel life?   The holiday season is a time of year where it can be easy to forget about best ecological and social practices.

An annual highlight of the fair is Brigette Z, Weird Bug Lady

Tempted by sales and the Christmas rush, citizens turned consumer-crazy often throw shopping ethics to the wind and overlook them for the latest in advertised shiny made-in-China gizmo crap.   This is why, for the past four consecutive years, Engineers Without Borders has been organizing the “Fair Trade and Locally Made” Christmas craft fair at the end of the fall semester on Macdonald Campus.   Thank goodness!

“We are trying to sensitize people to the issues of fair trade and how it applies to poverty,” said Carlo Primiani, a second year Bioresource engineering student at McGill University who was recently selected for a 3 month Junior Fellowship placement in Africa with Engineers Without Borders and one of the event organizers.

Back in 2007, this event was organized to give early-bird shoppers the opportunity to buy high-quality fair-trade goods from Dix Milles Villages, a fair-trade store in the nearby Pointe-Claire village and downtown Montreal that the McGill community may have been unaware of.   This event has now expanded to include student artisans, like Weird Bug Lady Bridgette Zacharczenko, the local Sainte-Anne’s Farmer’s market, Coop du Grand Orme, Punku Peru and many other local vendors selling hand-made jewelry and woven handicrafts.

Fair Trade is an issue that Engineers Without Borders (EWB), Canada has taken on in full force over the past few years.   Huge city wide events across the nation have been organized to promote fair trade coffee, chocolate and other daily consumer products by EWB   volunteers.

Overseas, volunteers also work with different African organizations and governments who produce fair trade crops and practices.   The fair trade and locally made event is an extension of this that the EWB McGill chapter has wholly embraced.

“It’s fine to talk to people about fair trade issues, but here we’re giving them an opportunity to act on it,” said Primiani.   This event is also an opportunity for McGill University to do some serious outreach into the community.

“We are hoping to diversify next year,” Primiani said, due to the fact that there were too many jewelry vendors at this year’s event.   A paramount component of the fair was achieved despite this challenge, which was to bring in a community of ethical businesses.   There are many fair trade and ecologically responsible merchants and individual vendors right outside the Macdonald campus doorstep.

“It’s a small part of a bigger scheme,”Primiani said, “we’re never really sure what our impact is and this event is just a drop in the bucket.   The point is not to change people’s behaviors, but to get them to change their shopping habits.”

The fair trade and locally made fair is held annually on Macdonald campus in Sainte Anne de Bellevue. To do some ethical and responsible shopping, please visit some of the links in this article and mark the last Wednesday of November in your calendar for next year’s bonanza.

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