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The Fair Family Wakes Up

by LeDayne McLeese Polaski
March 9, 2011

If you are anything like me, getting up and waking up are not the same thing. Getting up is as simple as rolling out of bed, but, for me, WAKING UP involves caffeine. I know I am not the only one -- millions of people think of coffee as an indispensable part of their morning routine. That routine is made possible by millions of others. Estimates are that over 25 million people worldwide make a living by growing coffee.

Unfortunately, very few of those growers make a living wage - that is, enough money to provide basic shelter, food, health care, and education for a family. In fact, even while some of us pay $4 for a latte, many coffee growers often find themselves selling their coffee beans for LESS than the costs of growing them. You can imagine what that does to their ability to sustain themselves and their children.

Here are some ideas for making sure that you don't want to wake up at the cost of someone else's livelihood:

  • Certified Fair Trade coffee is available widely everywhere from Target to Starbuck's. Before you pick up a bag or a cup, check for a Fair Trade label. This certifies, among other things, that workers have decent conditions, farmers make a reasonable profit, and sustainable growing methods are used.
  • Equal Exchange is generally recognized as one of the most innovative and ethical companies in the world. Their products are available on grocer's shelves (in Charlotte, try Healthy Home Market) and online. They partner with co-operatives of farmers who provide high-quality organic coffees and teas from all over the world. They also offer chocolate, bananas, and snacks.
  • If you have a single serve brewer, Baronet Coffee offers Fair Trade coffee and espresso pods while Green Mountain Coffee offers Fair Trade K-cups.
  • If you prefer tea, Equal Exchange and Green Mountain above both offer Fair Trade varieties, and a wide variety of fairly traded teas are available on the shelves. And if you are well-rested (I envy you), all of the above are available in decaf versions as well.
  • For a brief but very helpful discussion of the relationship between immigration and Fair Trade (especially coffee), see this article:

Resource: Julie Clawson, Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices, InterVarsity Press, 2009.

LeDayne McLeese Polaski is BPFNA's Program Coordinator. She can be reached through our contact page.

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