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Local shop spreads awareness for fair trade month

Volunteer coordinator and assistant manager Amy Phillips-Gary organizes fair-trade Andes Gifts hats made by Aymara and Quechua artisans. Credit: Kaylee Harter | For The Lantern

Whenever David Melvin went to the Short North to eat at Brassica, he liked to stop at a shop next door whose products he found fascinating.  It wasn’t until he became Global Gifts’ community engagement intern that he learned about the shop’s commitment to fair trade.  

Throughout October, which is fair-trade month, Global Gifts continues to spread awareness about fair trade practices and products.

“Fair trade is somewhat like when you look at food that has an organic sticker.  When things are fair-trade certified it means that a third-party organization has made sure that that item was made based on certain requirements,” Amy Phillips-Gary, volunteer coordinator and assistant manager of Global Gifts, said.

Phillips-Gary, who has been part of Global Gifts since its Short North opening in 2014, said  some of these requirements include that artisans must be paid a fair wage upfront, that the making of products must be environmentally sustainable and that production must not harm animals.

These requirements not only help artisans support themselves and their families, but also allow them to invest back into their community, Phillips-Gary said.

“I like to think about fair trade as having a positive ripple effect,” she said.

Divine Chocolate, a cooperative of cocoa farmers in Ghana, exemplifies this because of its dedication to paying farmers fair prices for their goods –– helping them earn more to better their communities.

“Not only are they able to fully educate their children, feed themselves, take care of themselves, but also they were able to build a well so that people in their community could have access to freshwater,” Phillips-Gary said.

Melvin, a sixth-year in strategic communication, recently highlighted another example of this ripple effect in an article about Mr. Ellie Pooh, an organization that turns elephant dung into paper products such as journals and greeting cards that can be found at Global Gifts.  

“It’s helped create a better relationship between the elephants that are usually destroying the farmers’ land and the farmers that would usually kill them,” he said. “Now, the elephants are safe and as a result of the paper products, different people in Sri Lanka have had new opportunities for work.”

In addition to interns like Melvin, Global Gifts relies heavily on volunteers because it is a nonprofit organization, Phillips-Gary said.

“We have students, we have young professionals, we have retirees, we have people who were born outside of the United States and people who are from the United States.  It’s a really wonderful mix of people,” she said. “It makes it super fun to work here and just get to know people.”

Phillips-Gary said the shoppers at Global Gifts are also a varied group and that the Short North is a diverse area in itself.

While some people come into the store because they are interested in fair trade, others wander in from High Street because they are drawn to the products and are excited when they find out about the added meaning to the item they’re interested in, Phillips-Gary said.

“We all have a budget, but I think it’s a useful exercise to stop and think about what you’re gonna buy when you do make a purchase and think about where it comes from and who made it,” she said. “Whenever you can, not out of guilt or because you should, buy something that you can feel good about.”

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