Brewing Coffee for Justice
Bronco Leaders of Environmental Justice Investigating Truth
Published: Thursday, May 17, 2012
Updated: Thursday, May 17, 2012 10:05
Many Broncos fuel their days with a cup of coffee in the morning, and another cup or two in the afternoon. However, most of us do not pause to take a second look at the coffee we are gulping down. Where did that coffee come from? Who picked the beans that went into that cup of java? Who worked to bring it to your caffeine deprived lips? Are people suffering as a result?
In our globalized economy, the limits of labor and the environment are overtly stressed. When resources and people are stressed by such systems and overconsumption they will not last long. Today there are social environmental movements that have been established to offset these stresses. By putting our dollars into companies that return basic needs to the workforce and our world, we will positively affect the worker and the environment.
Thankfully, more sustainable, equitable options exist, such as fair trade. Fair trade is a partnership based on dialogue, transparency and respect that seeks greater equity in international trade. The one we see most often in our busy collegiate lives is coffee. In making responsible coffee choices, it’s important to differentiate between fair trade and organic. Fair trade is a partnership composed of smallholder cooperatives, and operates as a one-person, one-vote system. From the ground up, fair trade promotes education, farmer training, housing, health care and sustainable agricultural practices. Organic is a global certification that prohibits the use of synthetic fertilizers and agrochemicals.
While not all organic coffees are fair trade products, “approximately 50 percent of fair trade producer organizations worldwide hold organic certificates,” according to the Fair Trade USA Coffee Review. According to Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International, fair trade farmers sell only about 20 percent of their coffee at fair trade prices. The rest sells at the world price, due to lack of demand.
One example of a successful, strong trade partnership (which also happens to be nearby) is the Community Agroecology Network, based out of University of California, Santa Cruz. CAN’s AgroEco coffee utilizes co-ops,its profit is more direct to farmers and is, in a way, “beyond fair trade.” CAN also works with local communities and uses participatory research and dialogue to create projects for development, focusing on the community’s needs.
You can find several fair trade options on campus. For example, the Cellar Market carries fair trade chocolate and Equal Exchange coffee. At the Mission Bakery you can ask for Starbucks’ Café Estima Blend coffee, which is a blend of fair trade certified coffee.
As students of a university that champions values of competence, conscience and compassion, we should take a moment to think about the implications of our consumer choices. Consistent with our Jesuit philosophy, the university educates us to understand the perspectives of others and the consequences of decision-making so that we can make ethical decisions.
By settling for a coffee provider who fails to provide its farmers with ethical working conditions and wages, and by ignoring conversation about such injustices ourselves, we are not fulfilling the responsibilities entrusted to us as Jesuit students. We should exercise the power of voting with our dollar.
Carlton Gossett, Claire Overholt, Max Silva, Hannah Rogers, Claire Ryan and Bobak Esfandiari are all members of SCU BLEJIT.