When shopping for clothes or jewelry, many people do not ask the question, “Where did this come from?” Most simply find what they like and buy it, no matter where it came from. In Auburn, the retailers Wake Up Coffee Company and Behind the Glass sell fair trade items that are both appealing to customers and ethically sourced.
Fair trade items are those which come from companies that pay suppliers fairly. One fair trade company that hopes to positively impact college students is 31 Bits, whose campus representatives are the direct connection to the company’s wholesome values.
“I have a passion for missions and fashion and loved that this company found a unique way to combine the two. Being a business minor, I’m interested in the way that companies operate and I was drawn to this company because of how they effectively operate based on their mission statement,” Emily Gaines, an Auburn University student and 31 Bits campus rep said.
31 Bits was started by five college friends after a trip to Uganda. While there, the group witnessed the local women’s incredible talent for making handmade beads from 100 percent recycled paper. This is what essentially started 31 Bits.
These friends wanted to bridge the gap between the women in Uganda and women in America. They started with 6 Ugandan women in the program, which helps the women learn skill sets to provide for their families. This reflects 31 Bits’ mission, “Fashion for Good,” and now the program has grown to over 150 women. They not only create the beads used in the jewelry, but also create a better life for themselves.
Gaines is a senior at Auburn graduating in May with concurrent degrees in art and psychology, and a minor in business. She is originally from Madison, Alabama. During her time at Auburn she has been involved in a social sorority, Camp War Eagle, Mortar Board, HSLC, BIG Event, Scarlet & Gold, Freshman Leadership Program, Miss Homecoming Campaign, Ignite Auburn, Church of the Highlands College Ministry and Preschool/Nursery and, now, 31 Bits.
Gaines has enjoyed telling the 31 Bits story to college students at Auburn, because of the connection to the company’s origin. She says that it can be difficult to engage the collegiate audience, however, because translating interest and support into purchases is difficult to achieve.
“My hope is that people realize that we have the power to make a difference with our purchases. When you purchase a piece from 31 Bits, you aren’t only getting a great piece of jewelry, but you are also empowering the women who made that piece. Ultimately, it’s taking what we have and using an outlet to give back in a different way. I feel like we often get caught in the college bubble, and this has allowed me to broaden my perspective and dream big dreams about what could be,” Gaines said.
You can shop for 31 Bits products and read more about them by going to their website.
Photos from Emily Gaines
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