Change Comes from the People: 1070 Fair Trade Towns and Counting

Courtney Lang November 26, 2011

Top Row: Nancy Jones of Fair Trade Town Chicago, IL, Billy Linstead-Goldsmith, National Coordinator Fair Trade Towns USA, Ryan Midden of Fair Trade Town Boston, MA. Arlene & Paul Renshaw of Fair Trade Town Mankato, MN. Bottom Row: Courtney Lang, Grassroots Outreach Manager at Fair Trade USA and Barbara Bole of Fair Trade Town Media, PA

“Change doesn’t come from the government, change comes from the people.” – Bruce Crowther, Fairtrade Town Advisor Fairtrade Foundation, UK

For eleven years and running, Fair Trade Towns have been the driving force behind consumer citizenship; starting with Garstang, U.K. in 2000, Media, PA in 2006, and leading us into 2012 with over 1,070 towns in 23 countries across 6 continents.

We’ve just left Malmo, the first Fairtrade City in Sweden, after concluding the 5th International Fair Trade Towns Conference

There are

There are 1,070 Fair Trade Towns in 23 countries across 6 continents.

Over 200 organizers from 26 countries, including Ghana, Japan and Belgium, took on the global vision “Beyond 1,000 Fair Trade Towns” by building a collaborative strategy to take ethical consumption to the next level.  Fair Trade Towns USA was in good numbers – eight delegates from cities and towns including Chicago-IL, Boston-MA, Media-PA, Mankato-MN and Lexington, KY were on the scene.

Day one, we were given the opportunity to dig into one of the five Fair Trade Town criteria, to share best practices and to create new ideas for the future.  Day two, we became visionary and focused even more on the future and the theme “Beyond 1000 Fair Trade Towns”.  Below I breakdown a few of my key takeaways from the presenters and key note speakers.  Stay tuned for notes that will recap each of the workshops.

Bananas! The Movie:  Make your Bananas a Cause-Related Purchase

After witnessing horrors of the unconventional banana trade in Nicaragua, Swedish journalist and filmmaker, Fredrik Gertten found a true calling:  creating a lively debate around the unacceptable work conditions within the banana industry.  As an organizer, I am always looking for concrete ways to change consumer patterns. One of the most effective ways of changing these behaviors is by exposing consumers to the harsh realities at the source of their consumption. Bananas! the movie does just that.  Fredrik‘s talk dipped into behind-the-scenes investigative journalism and the suffering of banana workers around the world at the fault of greedy corporate giants like Dole Food Co.  Fredrik‘s takeaways:

  • Watch the Trailer – We encourage you to find this movie.  Rent it from your library (request it if they don’t carry it) or buy it from your local book store. Organize a screening in your community and let your friends, teachers and fellow community members borrow it.
  • If you can’t buy Fair Trade bananas, you can’t buy bananas – Fair Trade isn’t perfect, but is there anything better out there?  Fair Trade isn’t just for the sake of yourself.  Fair Trade is about a better tomorrow, and a better future for our children.

Fashion in the Public Sector

Fair Trade was celebrated in style at the conference – and with Fair Trade work wear!  It was amazing to hear that in places like France, Fair Trade Town groups have worked with municipalities and the national government to use Fair Trade cotton for the uniforms of conductors, construction workers, nurses and Gardeners.  Pretty impressive!  Take a look at our photos on flickr.

Fair Trade cotton is used in these conductor and gardener suites.

Community Friendships: Linking Towns in the North & South

Until the self declarations made by the producers and residents of Alfenas-Brazil, Perez Zeledon-Costa Rica, and New Koforidua-Ghana, Fair Trade Towns were focused on consumers in the north, but now we have to consider what it means to be a Fair Trade Town in a producer community.  After an inspiring presentation by Walter Alifo, Fair Trade Town New Koforidua, Ghana and Bruce Crowther, Fairtrade Town Garstang UK, organizers were given a fresh look at the value of becoming a  Fairtrade Town in the south and the link between Garstang, the world’s first Fair Trade Town and New Koforidua, Africa.  A few insights and tips were shared.

The Fair Trade Triangle: Walter Alifo, New Koforidua, Ghana, Bruce Crwother, First Fairtrade Town in the World Garstang, UK, Barbara Cote, First Fair Trade Town in US Media, PA.

  • Focus your attention on your intentions: the producer.  Don’t talk about the people with problems, talk with them.  Currently, there is no criteria established for Fairtrade Towns in the South.  As the initiative continues to grow a framework must be established, but it must be respectful of the local context.
  • Linking producer and consumer towns is a powerful tool that can build friendship and understanding, which often, when missing, is why we have problems.
  • One World Linking Association – Interested in linking your town?  Check out the UKOWLA web site.


  1. Australia has 7 Fair Trade Towns and growing, but none are showing on the map. We (Australia) will need to get this updated…

    Linda - 13 years ago
  2. Hi Kim! Thanks for reading our blog post. We took this picture from the European FairTrade Towns site: Check it out, contact them to let them know and I’m sure you’ll be represented in no time!

    billy - 13 years ago

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Courtney Lang, National Organizer | Fair Trade Campaigns

Courtney Lang brings over 5 years of community organizing to Fair Trade Towns USA, building both the Local Food and Fair Trade networks in Vermont. As Local Food Coordinator with City Market/Onion River Cooperative, Courtney worked with local producers, institutions and consumers to grow the local food system and organize a strategic model for community engagement through farm tours, workshops, and local food challenges. Like many in the Fair Trade industry, Courtney was inspired to take action in Fair Trade when she witnessed child-labor first hand in Costa Rica. As a founding member of Fair Trade Burlington, she has worked with economic development organizations, businesses, and consumers to build awareness of Fair Trade among Vermonters. She also worked with a Fair Trade USA licensee, Vermont Coffee Company, as Friend Ambassador where she united the story of Fair Trade to every purchase of coffee.