You wake up in the morning and think about it. After your first class of the day, you think to yourself, “wow, I really need it again.” You’ve finally made it through your long and taxing day, but how will you do your homework and spend all night studying without another one? The mysterious “thing” that I am talking about is something that the majority of students on our campus are addicted to – coffee.
You’re probably even sipping a cup right now as you’re reading this paper, but every time you get a cup of coffee, do you consider where it came from and what type of product you so frequently ingest? My guess is you don’t, you’re just trying to figure out the fastest way to get the caffeine to course through your body – maybe stick an IV into your veins – so that you can get back to your life. Lucky for us, the students involved in the Fair Trade Campaign have been working hard to inform the UR community about the advantages of drinking FT coffee.
According to TransFair USA, the FT CertifiedTM label guarantees that farmers and workers receive a fair price for their product. The FT price means that farmers can feed their families and that their children can go to school instead of working in the fields. Most FT Certified coffee, tea and chocolate in the US is certified organic and shade grown. This means that the products you buy maintain biodiversity, provide shelter for migratory birds and help reduce global warming.
The UR FT Campaign began their mission of converting the campus to 100% FT coffee in the fall of 2004; they want every single form of coffee served on campus to be FT. By the end of last year, several different FT blends were available in some of the coffee shops on campus. A steady year of hard work culminated with the FT week at the end of last semester, and by working with Dining Services, different FT products were brought to dining locations. Throughout the week, in addition to coffee, there were various FT products available to students including chocolate, tea, sugar, chocolate syrup and energy bars. As part of an advertising campaign, “Do you FT?” posters were scattered throughout campus dining facilities. The grand finale of the FT Week was the Coffee Tasting Competition where five coffee vendors – Starbucks, Pura Vida Coffee, Java City, Women’s Coffee Connection and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters – came to campus equipped with products for the UR community to test.
“The data collected in this survey is the first of its kind that has been collected in a national tasting competition,” junior Dan Mueller, advocate of the FT Campaign said. “The reports will eventually be released to the media and will be an important document for other FT Campaigns, coffee vendors and dining services around the country. This was a very important and unique event that occurred on our campus.”
Continuing, Mueller said, “This was a highly successful event with over 300 participants filling out a survey that expressed their opinions about the taste and image the company presented, including its concern with FT. The results showed that on campus, students found FT to be a very important factor in their purchasing choices.”
During FT Campaign Week, the Students’ Association Senate unanimously passed a resolution in support of moving toward a 100% FT coffee campus. Danforth and Eastman Dining Centers now offer FT coffee from a local coffee roaster, the Women’s Coffee Connection. This is a non-profit corporation dedicated to helping people in recovery from drugs and alcohol. In order to fund their program, they sell organic coffee grown by Peruvian farmers who have stopped growing the coca plant. Hillside, Common Ground and the Java City cart at ITS are also exclusively serving Java City Eco-Grounds, which offers several FT blends. When the new BME Optics building opens, the coffee shop in it will be run by Pura Vida, a 100% FT company.
This year, one central goal of the FT Campaign continues to be
a full conversion to FT coffee on campus. Students closely involved in the campaign feel that there has not been enough action taken in this direction over the past year. “We feel that
they are still too small of steps compared to what the university community has indicated over the last year. Why is the implementation of FT coffee not moving as fast as support has shown?” Mueller said.
Dining Services has shown their interest and commitment in the campaign by making public their commitment to environmental responsibility and education and work to increase community involvement. They also want to expand opportunites for using Dining Services as a laboratory for studying sustaniability issues and provide educational opportunities for staff and the campus community. Cam Schauf, Director of Dining Services and Auxiliary operations, explains Dining Services involvment with the FT campaign. “When you look at a program like Women’s Coffee Connection, I think of them as an organization that is 100 percent behind social justice. One-hundred percent of their products are not FT, so I wouldn’t want to be in a position where I say I’m only doing FT so I can’t deal with you. FT is very important, but for us it’s not exclusive. We have to look at all of the things that all of our customors want, but especially our undergraduate population.”
The FT Campaign will also be working toward creating more awareness about FT and looking into other FT products to sell at the Common Market. Mueller emphasized that the campaign sees FT as a way to make college students conscious about larger trade justice issues, and make these issues something that students can actually do something about by simply choosing to buy FT coffee. One of their major intentions is for students to understand that their everyday actions can largley affect other people.
Weintraub can be reached at