“We Don’t Do Fair Trade”
As part of the 40/40/40 for the Earth campaign, I’ve resolved to drink only fairly traded coffee for 40 days. Admittedly, I knew it would not a be huge stretch since most of the places I frequently drink coffee already use or offer fair trade options: the office (we use Equal Exchange) , my school (Wesley Theological Seminary’s Dining Services Company, Meriwether-Godsey, has great fair/local/green commitments), and my home (we buy from Zeke’s, a Baltimore-based company owned by an old family friend that produces amazing coffee).
Feeling adventuresome, I took my ceramic, it’s-reusable-but-it-looks-like-a-to-go cup for a survey tour of the four coffee shops within one block of our office. None of the options (two national chains, one regional chain, and one independent shop) sold cups of fair trade coffee, although Starbucks sold bags of fairly-traded beans. Disappointing, but not surprising.
The real challenge for me has come whilst eating breakfast in cafes and diners, which happens to be one of the things I enjoy most in this world. The two places I go regularly are small, independent restaurants staffed by friendly people. I was not looking forward to the dynamic of being “that guy” who asks about the coffee. Nonetheless, I wanted to make good on my pledge–and I wanted caffeine–so I asked one of the cafe’s co-owners about their coffee. “Our coffee is 100% Columbian” he responded. “We don’t do fair trade.”
I could have entered my lobbying phase, but I chose to leave it at that. My sense is that the question expressed my desire well enough, and that any additional advocacy would simply have been annoying. Maybe I’ll bring it up again in the future, after we’ve both had time to think about it.
In the interest of full disclosure, I did drink a cup of their coffee that morning–but it was the small cup of hot coffee that came free with my meal, rather than the large iced coffee I actually wanted. Since it was already an extremely hot and humid day, the hot cup did feel like somewhat of a penalty. For the rest of my 40 days, however, I will not buy or drink any java there. Even if they decide to give away large iced coffees. –Rob