Social Justice Committee encourages smart shopping with fair trade fair

Have you ever wondered where your clothes and accessories come from? Calvin’s Social Justice Coalition hopes to give students an answer they can feel good about during this holiday season.

On Thursday Dec. 6 and Friday Dec. 7, the Social Justice Coalition will be hosting a fair trade fair in the library lobby to help promote socially aware Christmas gift buying.

“It really is a win-win situation,” said Calvins Social Justice Coalitions student member Laura Van Engen. “Students can make socially conscious decisions, educate others about fair trade, all while getting some of their holiday shopping done.”

The Social Justice Coalition members hope other students will join them in their mission to take action against social injustice by browsing the selections at the fair. Members of the coalition are excited to bring their vision to the masses through this event.

“It’s really nice to have an accessible community that is there to make you accountable to explore social justice issues so they stay in the forefront of your mind and lead you to communal action,” said Van Engen.

Vendors coming to the fair include 31 Bits, Azizi Africa, Union Microfinanza and Global Gifts. Products such as jewelry, scarves, bags, purses, chocolate and mittens will be available for purchase.

Many students look forward to this opportunity to be socially aware shoppers without even having to leave campus.

“I like that when I buy something from the fair trade fair, I know where it’s coming from,” said junior Karlene Kristich. “The fair also allows us to support local craftsmen and business owners, which is important, especially in the world of big business where small or local vendors can be underappreciated.”

Kristich added that students appreciate the chance to support those who make their own goods to sell, created both here and around the world.

“Sometimes the people selling goods at their table have personally made the items,” she said. “Other times I’ve heard stories about the vendor’s previous life abroad, where they met the woman from whom they bought the jewelry. And now they’re selling it for them in the U.S. I think it’s a neat idea to know that some of the items for sale are supporting specific craftsmen and women abroad.”

While the sale will be an option for two days, there are several stores in Grand Rapids that support the fair trade industry year-round. One such example is Clothing Matters, a local store committed to providing merchandise that is ethically and environmentally friendly.

“I love to inform, inspire, excite and delight people with how good clothing gets,” said Clothing Matters owner Marta Swain in an interview with Calvin’s Inner Compass. “Part of my interest is just in raising people’s expectations so they have a bar beyond what they may have experienced clothing to be.”

The store emphasizes both social justice and environmental consciousness in their products, selling items made from hemp, bamboo, soy, organic cotton and recycled fibers.

Clothing Matters has been invited to the fair, but its participation has not been confirmed.

The fair will run from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. both Thursday and Friday. For more information about Clothing Matters, visit their website at