Your journey to class in the morning is simple: snooze your alarm 4 times, roll out of bed 30 minutes before class starts, wake your roommates up getting dressed, throw your laptop in your bag, and start your trek up Bruin Walk with just enough time to stop at Kerckhoff for a pastry and some much-needed caffeine. But what about that coffee you just bought? Its journey is much longer, and much less innocent.
From Seed to Cappuccino
The grounds used to brew your coffee start their journey in the high-altitude jungles of Central America, East Africa, or Southeast Asia, where it grows as a red cherry. The coffee trees are tended to and harvested by workers who work up to 16 hours a day under harsh conditions. For every dollar you spend on a cup of coffee, these workers earn less than 3 cents. The practice is also environmentally destructive, as the beans are often grown on large plantations which practice monoculture and utilize chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
The cherries are then dried and processed into beans in a weeks-long process, at which point they must be painstakingly hand-sorted to ensure high quality. They are then ready to be exported to North America or Europe, at a price determined by stock traders on Wall Street who never come in contact with the beans or the producers. After being carefully taste-tested by experts, the beans are sold directly to large companies like Nestle and Starbucks, or through intermediaries to your favorite local artisan coffee company, where they are roasted. Finally, they can be ground, brewed, and sold to you.
How Fair Trade Helps
This process exploits the poorest workers along the supply chain, and is harmful to the environment and human health. But what are you, a sleep-deprived and caffeine-addicted college student, to do? That’s where Fair Trade comes in.
Fair Trade is a third-party certification that ensures the workers who grow and process your coffee are paid a living wage and use environmentally sustainable farming practices. Fair Trade sets rigorous standards for the production of coffee and other goods such as chocolate, bananas, tea, sugar, flowers, and clothing, among others. The practice especially favors small, locally owned farms and co-ops, as well as female-owned businesses. Furthermore, a portion of the additional revenues from Fair Trade are set aside for a Community Development Fund. From this fund, the community can vote to build schools, provide healthcare, or develop infrastructure. Since coffee is only grown in specific climates, the global supply chain will never go away, but Fair Trade makes it more transparent and accountable. There are a number of Fair Trade certifiers, but the two largest in the US are Fair Trade USA (logo displayed above) and Fairtrade America. Anytime you see one of their logos on a product, you know it was ethically and sustainably produced!
Fair Trade at UCLA
You may be thinking, “this is great, but what does it have to do with UCLA?” In 2016, with lots of hard work from the UCLA Fair Trade Campaign and E3: Ecology, Economy, & Equity, UCLA signed a resolution making it the largest Fair Trade University in the country at the time! This means that every outlet on campus offers at least 2 Fair Trade products. Here’s where you can find Fair Trade products on campus:
UCLA wants to support ethical and sustainable practices, but will only do so if students demand it. Thus, we are asking you to sign our petition demanding the changes listed above. UCLA prides itself as a world-class research institution dedicated to improving the world, and we believe putting Fair Trade first can help it put that mission into practice.
Sign our petition here: https://goo.gl/forms/C6KBeybEKSYAIERy1