A Simple Guide to Changing Lives With Your Cup of Coffee
"WHAT YOU DO MAKES A DIFFERENCE, AND YOU HAVE TO DECIDE WHAT KIND OF DIFFERENCE YOU WANT TO MAKE"
- Jane Goodall
Did you know that you can change your health, but more importantly someone's life (especially women) just by the coffee you buy? Yes, really! And how is this possible? By buying fair-trade coffee. Yes, as SIMPLE as that! One simple SHIFT to fair-trade coffee (even better, that it is also organic, but that is a whole separate post!) changes lives. Here's a mini guide from SHE to make it easy!
SO HOW DOES FAIR TRADE CHANGE LIVES?
Simply put, by being FAIR! Isn’t that what we all want? To be treated fairly and with kindness? However, most people who work for coffee farms that are NOT fair trade certified are not treated fairly, especially the women and children (yes, children).
Most farming workers face back-breaking work (coffee is harvested by HAND and grown in hot climates) and many work without being paid a living wage. On average, a rural coffee farmer is living on less than $2 per day. These workers are rarely given the ability to buy their own land, and there is a lack of medical care, education, and childcare. Worse yet, women and children make up the the most vulnerable pieces of the coffee farming community and are often harassed, taken advantage of, and discriminated against. And this is just the simple list.
Does any of that sound fair to you? It sounds really heart-breaking, SAD, and UN-fair to us. And we participate in UN-fairness with every cup we buy that’s not fair trade.
WHEN YOU BUY FAIR TRADE
It ensures the workers are making a living wage.
It offers the opportunity for them to save money.
It opens the doors for them to receive microloans to start their own business.
It provides women with maternity leave and childcare.
It allows them to have a voice in their communities.
It prevents child labor.
It gives children the ability to go to school and become educated, especially girls.
By buying fair-trade coffee, you are literally changing someone’s life from UN-fair to FAIR. That is a POWERFUL SHIFT.
FAIR-TRADE ALSO MAKES A DIFFERENCE FOR OUR PLANET
It prohibits GMOs from being used (which is really important for your health).
It supports converting to organic land and products (Oh yeah!).
It helps to conserve water (which is so important for the planet!).
It encourages crop rotation.
It improves biodiversity.
It limits carbon emissions (affects global warming).
It minimizes chemical usage (which is really important for your health and the workers!).
SO WHAT MAKES A PRODUCT FAIR TRADE?
In order to be identified and labeled as fair trade, a product MUST be certified by an approved agency and meet established criteria including:
Fair labor conditions;
Environmentally sustainable growing practices;
Democratic and transparent organizations;
WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT FAIR TRADE? SOME GREAT RESOURCES TO CHECK OUT:
For all of you wondering if “the best part of waking up” is changing people’s lives, the answer is a resounding, “NO.” Some of the most well-known coffee brands, such as Folger’s, are not fair-trade certified (or good for you); They are far from it in fact. For Folger’s, it’s all about the bottom line, not about being fair and spreading kindness.
So instead of putting your money towards UN-fairness, we can choose to start putting it towards the many amazing companies changing the world and treating their employees fairly.
SO HOW DO YOU START?
Fair Trade USA has taken the guess work out of how to get started with choosing fair trade. We love this! Check out their “5 Fair Trade New Year’s Resolutions to Fit Every Lifestyle” below and you can read even more about each one here.
FAIR TRADE COFFEE BRANDS DOING IT RIGHT:
At SHE Changes Everything, we think its helpful to rank the companies and products we love on a good, better, best scale. A "Best" ranking is given to the ultimate options if you can make them happen, while companies we rank as "Better" and "Good" still make a difference if that’s what you can find in your area or can afford. "Good" and "Better" options just might not have 100% of all the sustainable, healthy, ethical options possible.
Higher Ground Roasters was born through the combination of a desire to produce the highest quality coffee and the hope of improving the act of doing business in today’s world. This company purchases and roasts exclusively 100% certified organic, fair trade, and shade grown (that’s another blog topic! But the short version is that shade-grown coffee is cultivated traditionally under the shade of forest trees. This helps create a bio-diverse environment by providing a natural habitat for forest birds, reducing deforestation, and slowing erosion. Beans will take longer to mature and ripen than if they were grown in the sun, but many people think this gives them a more robust flavor).
This company begins with three main goals:
Purchasing the best coffee available, roasting it to perfection, and to making it available — fresh — to anyone.
Creating a sustainable business model that truly gives back to the community — locally and globally.
Investing in the future by supporting environmental preservation and conservation.
We can get behind all of those!
Grounds for Change is a 100% fair trade coffee company. If that is not enough of a reason to love this company, it is also 100% organic, use 100% renewable energy, gives back to its community, uses only the Swiss water process (a gentle, 100% chemical free process) to decaffeinate its coffee, and most of its coffee is shade grown. Can we say LOVE?!
Deans Beans cofounded the Coffeelands Landmine Victims Trust, and uses all organic, fair trade and Kosher beans, roasting them in small batches at its beanery in Orange, MA. This company only uses the Swiss water process to decaffeinate its coffee. The icing on the cake, errr, cup?
Cameron's Speciaty Coffee is a small batch roaster in Minnesota that takes sustainability and fair trade seriously with a farm to cup approach. Cameron’s invests in sustainable sourcing by buying Organic, Rainforest Alliance, and Shade Grown coffees from farms around the world. The company also works very closely with its farmers to ensue good working conditions, health and education opportunities, and it invests in the farming communities. Look for the Sustainable line of coffee blends that are organic. These are the coffee blends we recommend. Cameron’s also consciously roast its coffee in the most energy efficient ways, including virtually eliminating all water waste in production. We love that! You can find Cameron's in most major grocery stores.
Pura Vida Coffee is devoted to creating good. The cause-driven Pura Vida is one of the first companies to sell exclusively fair trade coffee on a national basis.
Equal Exchange or Allegro Coffee Company: These brands are available at most grocery stores and they sell both fair trade and organic coffee. HOWEVER, you do have to read the label because they have some coffee options that are not fair trade or organic. And they don’t use the Swiss water process to make decaf coffee. So make sure you read the labels!
THERE IS MORE TO FAIR TRADE THAN COFFEE:
Although this post focuses on coffee, it is important to note that fair trade coffee is just ONE of many fair-trade certified products available around the world, and many others including chocolate and sugar, for example, should be looked at for this important label. If you are not a coffee drinker, you can start with one of the other choices (chocolate, sugar, etc) to buy fair trade. Even better, start looking for the fair trade label on all of these different products.
Please share this with your friends and family so that they know why it’s so important and life changing to shift and look for the fair trade label! Just adding one fair trade item to your pantry a month or committing to always purchasing the fair trade option of just one item for the whole year are some simple shifts that will still have a BIG impact collectively if we all do our part!
Do you have a favorite fair trade coffee that you love? Do you look for the fair trade symbol? Please share!