- Everyone is drinking coffee!
- Background info on coffee beans & what it means to be fair trade
- The benefits of buying fair trade certified products
- Where to find fair trade coffee
- Fair trade vs regular coffee
“More than 50 percent of Americans drink coffee everyday — three to four cups each, more than 330 million cups a day and counting,” said a CBS News’ article Coffee Nation in 2008.
My parents, siblings, friends, teachers and coworkers all drink coffee. It’s something that keeps us going throughout the day and warm through the nights. It’s also addictive and for the most part, the more we drink it, the more we need to get the same effect. With so many people drinking coffee, I decided to reach out to everyone to make it more sustainable and more ethical by switching to fair trade coffee!
Before going into detail about why to start drinking fair trade, I figured a little background on the subject might be needed.
Background of Coffee & Fair Trade
Most coffee beans need to be grown at a high altitude in a sub-tropical regions, which is why America imports its coffee beans from South America and regions of Africa. Because the coffee growing is not going on in front of our eyes by our friends and neighbors, a lot of Americans don’t know what goes into growing the coffee beans. The truth is, more than half of the workforce in coffee plantations is done by children and slaves.
The idea of fair trade began subtly in the 1940s and 1950s to help stop the child and slave labor put into making not only coffee, but sugar, tea, honey, cocoa and more. It wasn’t until about the 1980s when more countries and more people began to really catch on though. In 1994, the Fair Trade Federation began to “strengthen and promote North American organizations fully committed to fair trade.” By 2009, 110 million pounds of Fair Trade certified coffee was imported into the US (Fair Trade USA.) Although this number has grown significantly from its start, it is still nowhere close to the near 3 billion pounds of coffee imported each year.
Fair Trade is Essential!
Last year was the first year I really began to learn about fair trade. It was surprising I hadn’t learned about it in any of my classes before, especially when it’s on the food and drinks we consume. Senior agriculture business major at Cal Poly, Aura Augilar, says she comes across people all the time who aren’t aware of what it means for items to be fair trade certified.
“A lot of people don’t know about the different fair trade labels and how there are different certification processes,” she says. “I think it’s important to know where their food comes from especially if it’s from a foreign country.”
Aura and I both agree people need to be more aware of the benefits of fair trade. “People should know that buying fair trade coffee supports the farmers and their communities and ensures fair wages and living conditions,” she says. Therefore, I composed a list of just a few benefits:
• Provides economic security for producers
• Farmers that receive fair trade can afford to keep their kids in school longer without working the plantations
• Creates a bigger demand for fair trade coffee in cafes so they can continue to sell it and support the cause
• Provides safer and better working conditions for workers
• Supports small farmers and artisan workers so they can provide essentials, like health care, to their families; lots of farmers are making less than it costs to produce the coffee
• “Fairtrade rewards and encourages farming and production practices that are environmentally sustainable” (Fair Trade Labeling Organizations)
When junior graphic communications major Kate Carothers transferred to Cal Poly and heard there was a Fair Trade Club, she joined it immediately. “Fair trade is a good cause. The more people who know about fair trade, the more likely it is that the maltreated workers will get better pay and treatment for their work.”
Where to Find Fair Trade
If finding local places that carry fair trade seems like the only thing holding you back, try finding a club like Kate did on your campus or asking a coworker or friend.
“I’m new to San Luis Obispo so at first it was hard to find places that offered fair trade coffee, but the club has helped introduce me to a few places downtown,” Kate says. “If you really look into it, it’s not hard. There are places everywhere that will sell fair trade coffee.”
If you’re one of those people that need their Starbuck fix every morning, guilty as charged, they also offer fair trade coffee.
Alex Johnson, manager of Starbucks in North Tustin says, “Unfortunately the drinks on the menu don’t use fair trade, but we have a lot of roasts that do.”
“The fair trade coffee we sell is actually really popular,” Alex says. “The roast is popular in itself and it happens to be in fair trade so it gets even more people to buy it.”
If you don’t like Starbucks or don’t have friends that know where to go for fair trade, here is a website that lists some chain coffee stores that may be near you and websites that you can order it off of!
Kate says 3/4ths of the coffee she drinks, which is a cup a day, is fair trade and she hasn’t noticed a big difference in price. “I think some places fair trade is a little more, but I couldn’t even tell you by how much so it’s not a big deal to me.”
Alex says there’s no difference in price at Starbucks. “All the roasts typically costs the same. Fair trade shouldn’t cost more than the regular.”
The Future of Fair Trade
While Kate says the Cal Poly Fair Trade Club is focusing on getting coffee shops on university campuses to offer fair trade, Aura is reaching out to her peers to make a difference.
“I hope I’ve gotten some people to start drinking fair trade coffee,” Aura says. “If anything I’ve gotten people to be more aware of whether their coffee is fair trade or not because most people don’t even notice.”
The chart below shows that the consumption of fair trade products, not just coffee, has also grown exponentially in the US.
With the history of fair trade, the benefits it has for small foreign farmers, and the cost not shown to create a problem, it’s time for you all to go out and drink some fair trade coffee!
If you want to know more about fair trade (certification process, countries involved, etc.) I created a list of websites with credible information.