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Tori Utley: The importance of shopping fair trade this holiday season

Tori Utley: The importance of shopping fair trade this holiday season

In the Med City, the holiday season is well underway filled with bell ringers, Christmas lights, delicious treats … and lots of shopping. It’s an exciting time for family, friends and loved ones as the season of cheer and togetherness unfolds. 
For most of us, shopping is a tradition of the season. But in the busy hustle of everyday life, many of us have failed to stop and think about the impact our everyday purchases are having.

In the global economy, there is increasing demand to make products cost less to make so companies can make more to sell them. Though this decision is often at the heart of a successful business model, it cannot be made without thinking through the ethical cost behind the decision. Many are thinking about how to make more, but few are asking one vital question: Who is paying for the difference?

Often, costs are cut through the use of unfair, unjust labor, often including slavery and human trafficking. Workers can be forced to work in unsafe, unclean or unethical working environments for long hours or for little to no pay. In effort to make products faster and cheaper, many industries have seen a rise in human trafficking and labor trafficking, all at the expense of human beings – men, women and children who have a name and a purpose.

Thankfully, there is a solution. 

The global fair trade movement is working to end the unethical practices of today’s global labor market. A movement comprised by rigorous standards, in essence, fair trade means fair wages and working conditions. It means dignity and opportunity for workers and their families. It can mean spending more to buy for quality, purpose, ethics and hope – hope for families around the world to build ethical businesses that sustain their lives and communities in a way that preserves their human rights.


This week, residents of Rochester have the opportunity to user their purchases for good and advance this global movement.

This Thursday, a fair trade fundraiser is being hosted in downtown Rochester. The fundraiser will benefit local nonprofit anti-trafficking organization, Mission 21, hosted in partnership with Eth’tique, Noonday Collection – Jennifer Jensen Independent Ambassador and Soul Purpose Boutique. The event will be hosted from 5:30-8:30 p.m. downtown at Re-Fashion/Soul Purpose (321 South Broadway) and will offer a variety ways for Rochester residents to shop ethically while making a measurable impact. The event will be fun, too, with appetizers, wine, coffee from local fair-trade coffee roaster, Narrow Road, music, and brief presentations from each of the evening’s hosts. 

Rochester’s mark in the fair trade movement has been growing steadily. Local vendors include Jennifer Jenson, an independent Noonday Collection consultant that sells beautiful jewelry and accessories from around the world; Chrissy Ries, the owner of Eth’tique, Rochester’s first ethical fashion trick who will open her first store in Stewartville early 2017; and Kristie Moore, the owner of Soul Purpose Rochester, a fair trade home goods store that is nested downtown Rochester in shared space with Re-Fashion. All three vendors will be included in the event on Thursday, though there are more outlets for fair trade in Rochester, including the Freedom Boutique at Dwell Local, among others.

Rochester, a growing city with focus on health and wellbeing, is making a footprint in the global movement to accomplish just that. “Shopping Fair Trade, particularly while it is benefiting such a needed and worthwhile organization like Mission 21, is a great way for us all to make a difference. No special qualifications or experiences necessary,” says Ries. 

The holiday season is known to be the season of giving…so why not give exponentially more by shopping fair trade? When you shop fair trade, the recipient of the gift you give is not the only the person who benefits from your purchase. With fair trade, you, the recipient, the artisan who made the product, as well our local anti-trafficking movement will all benefit. 

Graphic courtesy Mission 21

Proceeds from the evening will go to benefit Mission 21, Rochester’s local anti-trafficking organization whose goal is to empower and serve youth survivors of sex trafficking. This year alone, they have educated over 3,600 people in our community on sex trafficking and have served over 121 youth, both survivors in a survivor support group and at risk youth through preventative programming.

Stated by Mission 21 Founder and Executive Director, Stephanie Holt, “Every time our community comes together to raise awareness and funds to help our mission, we are reminded of the kindness of most people in the world. These reminders continue to restore hope in the youth we serve here locally in Southeast MN and hope is one of the first things needed to reclaim their lives.”

By attending this local event on Thursday, the people of Rochester have the opportunity to purchase great gifts for the holidays while making an impact around the world and in our community. To get involved and make an exponential impact this season, stop by the Fair Trade Fundraiser on Thursday and spread holiday cheer around the globe.

If you are a business owner or vendor that offers fair trade products or services and are interested in partnering on future events, please contact Mission 21 at For questions about the Fair Trade Fundraiser, please contact Tori Utley at 

Follow Tori on Twitter.

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(Cover graphic: Med City Beat)

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