Health Promotion hosts initiative advocating ethical and sustainable consumption

Max Szyc | Fulcrum Staff

Graphic by Mathias MacPhee

SOME STUDENTS ARE combating the winter “blahs” to make the post-holiday return to student life more tolerable by educating on a unique issue.
Since the beginning of January, volunteers and employees at the Health Promotion division of the University of Ottawa’s Health Services have been offering free fair-trade hot chocolate at various locations on campus.

The free hot chocolate has been available throughout the month and will be served again on Jan. 24 and 29 from 1 to 2 p.m. in room 203 of the Jock Turcot University Centre.

The term fair trade refers to products that were made by workers who are provided with fair working conditions and wages. The resulting items are generally sold at a higher price than non-fair-trade alternatives.

Julie Frederick is the global health team leader for Health Promotion and a third-year health sciences student at the U of O.

“By choosing fair-trade products, you are contributing to a system that’s not only better human rights-wise, but is also better in the sense of it being more environmentally and socially sound,” she said.

Frederick initially got involved with the service as a volunteer peer educator, but loved her work so much that she applied for a team-leader position and now works part-time. She’s been eager to explain the benefits of fair trade to passersby.

“It’s January, it’s cold, a lot of people are out, and it’s a great way to encourage better choices when choosing where to go for these products,” said Frederick.

How have the students been enjoying the promotion?

“It’s really good,” said Ashmit Vyas, a communications student who was drawn in by the hot chocolate and further enticed by the message regarding fair-trade products.

Students are asked to bring a reusable mug to the tables, but free cups will be provided to students who don’t have one.

Student health coordinator Lara Cousins says the objective is to promote sustainability and environmental awareness.

She hopes students will understand the importance of choosing certified fair-trade products over regular ones. Coffee and hot chocolate are some of the most widely available fair-trade items—they can be purchased not only at coffee shops, but also on campus at the UCU’s Pivik store.

“What we try to do is encourage global action at the local level, showing students different ways that they can engage in global health initiatives on a day-to-day basis,” said Cousins.

According to Frederick, Health Promotion will continue to promote different initiatives after this month, focusing on sustainable self-care and “going green” for the month of February. She hopes students will see how they can integrate homemade products such as shampoos, detergents, and cleaning supplies into their daily lives.

Based on the positive reception of the hot chocolate booths so far, it’s clear that Health Promotion knows how to get people’s attention for a good cause. And they serve a damn fine cup of cocoa.