fair-trade-bagBags like this one, and Fair Trade products, may become more prevalent in Red Bank. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)


Red Bank has held several appellations in its storied century-plus on the Navesink, both flattering and blunt. The infamous ‘Dead Bank’ comes to mind, but has since been supplanted, in many circles, by ‘Hip City.’

It’s also known, if you pay close enough attention to the signs when entering the borough, as a Tree City USA.

Amber Graves wants to add another tag to the borough.

“Red Bank should not only be known as Hip City, but also as a Fair Trade town,” she told the borough council on Monday, as part of an effort by a group to win national certification from a group called Fair Trade Towns USA.

What does it all mean exactly?

From the group’s website:

Fair Trade principles include:

  • Providing market access to marginalized producers
  • Ensuring capacity building and empowerment
  • Paying a fair wage in the local context
  • Providing healthy and safe working conditions
  • Building direct, long-term trade relationships
  • Providing financial and technical assistance to producers whenever possible
  • Workers are democratically organized and open to public accountability.
  • Reinvesting in community development
  • Engaging in environmentally sustainable practices
  • Offering employees opportunities for advancement

A designation would shows neighbors, the state and the rest of the country that Red Bank subscribes to the principles of Fair Trade, Graves said.

“I think we can all agree these are good things and good for our town,” she told the council.

The governing body agreed and passed a resolution in support of the group seeking the designation, which is a required step toward the certification.

But beyond the chic classification, there are other advantages to being a Fair Trade town, Graves said.

It gives Red Bank a tool to attract different, often more progressive, businesses into town, she said. Because there are so few Fair Trade towns in the country, many national, albeit lesser-known businesses find places with the Fair Trade brand more desirable to set up shop, she said.

A short list of certified towns and cities includes: San Francisco, Burlington, Vt., Media, Pa., and Ballston Spa, N.Y.

“We have an opportunity to bring in some really unique businesses in Red Bank, and I think the town needs that,” said Graves.

Already some business in town are providing Fair Trade products, which range from food to clothes to athletic equipment. Ten Thousand Villages, No Joe’s Cafe, Foodtown and Soap Market are just a few, said Daliah Kusner, who’s on the committee to earn the designation.

Graves said that although there are specific requirements to earn the title, it’s not as if a certain number of stores are mandated to carry a set amount of Fair Trade products. In fact, according to the organization’s website, the criteria include the formation of a steering committee, a local resolution and media attention — all complete.

Graves said the next step is to put together a package proving Red Bank has met all the criteria and send it off to the organization.

Overall, Graves says it’s a worthwhile cause with a minimal impact on the community.

“It’s being able to impact a global movement on a local level,” she said, “just by being able to shop in a town you like and knowing the dollars you’re spending are helping.”