Ecology, Economy, Equity and ASUCLA promote fair-trade coffee consumption on campus
E3, an environmental campus group, aims to spread the knowledge about fair-trade benefits.
"You're voting very powerfully as a consumer when you choose the fair-trade brew."
By Flavia Casas
Originally published in The Daily Bruin
While UCLA students are sustaining their energy with a revitalizing cup of coffee, the campus group E3: Ecology, Economy, Equity, wishes to inform them that for a few extra cents, they could simultaneously be sustaining farming communities around the globe.
In an effort to promote cultural and ecological responsibilities while still considering the needs of the economy, E3 is currently campaigning for the UCLA community’s increased consumption of fair-trade coffee.
Fair-trade coffee provides living wages to farmers and growers who would otherwise live with lower wages, and does so at the additional cost of 20 to 50 cents per cup and a lack of pesticides as an added health bonus, said E3 leader Rebecca Miller. She stressed that the biggest problem on campus is the community’s limited, if even existent, knowledge of the topic.
E3 is collaborating with ASUCLA to educate the community and promote the product through what Miller referred to as a “fair-trade bonanza.” The bonanza will be held during spring quarter, where the group will provide free samples, documentary screenings and informational sessions.
Cindy Bolton, ASUCLA food services associate director, said fair-trade coffee makes up approximately 10 percent of total coffee sales, a figure that has not deviated much in recent years. Despite low-end purchases of the product, fair-trade coffee has come a long way since it was first actualized at UCLA in 2001.
It was then that the Environmental Coalition and the Social Justice Alliance, two campus groups that no longer exist, strongly pushed for the implementation of fair-trade coffee at coffeehouses at UCLA. Since then, fair-trade options have been available at all ASUCLA coffeehouses with the exception of Café Synapse, which does not carry the coffee due to space constraints, Bolton said.
According to Jimmy’s Coffee House manager Imee Chung, the integration of fair trade has increased with the new options of light roast, dark roast and espressos. In an effort to promote the item, Chung said ASUCLA had previously offered a 25-cent discount.
Since the campaign began, according to Bolton, ASUCLA works with a campus sustainability group every year, which has recently been E3. “We will give discounts for the amount of the upcharge. ... E3 would be handing out coupons and fliers to promote and raise awareness,” Bolton said.
Fair-trade efforts are also being made in other areas. Although not affiliated with ASUCLA, the much-anticipated residential dining option Café 1919 will offer fair-trade espressos, a step toward including UCLA Dining Services as a fair-trade coffee provider, which group members said they hope to be a future target for E3’s fair-trade campaign.
E3 hopes to further the progress the university has already made. What began in 2008 as an effort toward 100 percent fair-trade coffee sales has now evolved into a realization, Miller said. “What needs to happen ... is to educate the UCLA community on the difference that fair-trade coffee can offer to farmers and the importance of social equity in every cup,” Miller said.
Derrick Cheuong, a Bruin Buzz customer service representative, said his customers do not usually choose the fair-trade option. Jay Zhang, a second-year biochemistry student and coffee consumer, said he had never heard of the fair-trade brew.
“One hundred percent fair trade is a board of director’s issue with social responsibility and core value,” Bolton said. Bolton said that, if UCLA students want to see this change, they have to bring it to the board’s attention.
For now, Miller said she hopes that consumers can make fair trade a conscious choice, as opposed to mindlessly purchasing it because it is the sole option. “I don’t think students want to drink a cup of coffee that directly impacts people in poverty and debt, and not being able to support their families,” she said. “You’re voting very powerfully as a consumer when you choose the fair-trade brew. It also tastes a lot better.”
Published: Friday, January 29, 2010