Something New Brewing, Fair Trade Resolution Passed at UVM

This past Tuesday, the Student Government Association passed a resolution encouraging University Dining Services, including administrative and academic departments, to serve 100 percent Fair Trade coffee everywhere possible throughout campus. This is an essential effort to encourage UVM to live up to its vision of becoming a strong leader in environmental and socially just policies. Prompted by a campaign led by Students for Peace and Global Justice that began last year, University Dining Services is currently working on selling 90 percent Fair Trade by the end of the semester, an exciting increase from fall of 2004 when it only made up 10 percent of the coffee served on campus.

At the cost of just a few dollars, coffee has become as American as apple pie, allowing us to get through our fast paced days (and nights) without collapsing.

In fact, the United States consumes about 1/5 of the world’s annual coffee supply. Few of us today would think of this everyday item as a valuable luxury, nor would we realize how our caffeinated cheerfulness could lead to sadness elsewhere.

Coffee is the most important agricultural export for many developing nations, from Brazil to Ethiopia. With an extremely profitable global coffee market of $18 billion annually, you would think that the farmers are living the high life.

After all, coffee is the second most traded commodity following petroleum worldwide. However, the majority of the 25 million coffee farmers in the world are not seeing this additional income. Many small farmers, producing 70 percent of coffee produced in the world, receive a price much lower than their cost of production. Without sufficient funding these farmers are unable to provide for their family’s basic needs, leading to debt, poverty, migration and environmental degradation.

One alternative to this system is that of Fair Trade certification, ensuring that the farmer who grows the coffee gets paid a fair and steady wage for their work.

Eliminating middle-men and offering a steady source of income, farmers are able to invest in community needs, such as schools and health clinics. More money often times means better environmental practices, as most Fair Trade certified cooperatives are eventually certified organic as well.

The resolution comes after a year and a half campaign led by Students for Peace and Global Justice (SFPGJ) who have been working on increasing awareness and understanding about Fair Trade amongst the university. With much support from UVM, University Dining Services has increased their percentage of Fair Trade coffee significantly and is working with SFPGJ to promote Fair Trade through events such as “Fair Trade Week” and future educational events. This move will also encourage Green Mountain Coffee Roasters to add even more Fair Trade flavors to their already varied options. This is not the first step that UVM has taken towards this goal. After SFPGJ collected over 1,500 signatures on a petition calling for 100% Fair Trade coffee on campus last year, President Fogel decided to serve all Fair Trade at their official receptions. President Fogel stated in his 2005 Convocation Address, we “stand out [also] for our unusual institutional commitment to social justice and equity and to environmental and community leadership. These are wonderful attributes for any institution to claim, and in truth they set the bar high with standards and ideals that are hard to live up to. To do so, we have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.” President Fogel has further stated that our institution is seen as second only to Harvard University in the realm of environmental leadership. In fact, Harvard switched over to 100% Fair Trade in the 2003-4 school year. Similarly, there are at least a dozen other universities across the country that have done the same, with hundreds more increasing the availability on their campuses. Many other products are fairly traded, including bananas, chocolate, tea and sugar. This resolution also encourages UDS to explore the distribution of additional Fair Trade certified products, a campaign that Students for Peace and Global Justice are pursuing for next semester. This way we can prove Benjamin Franklin right by ensuring that our coffee consumption can lead to cheerfulness at the other end of the production line as well.

For more information, come to Students for Peace and Global Justice meetings, Thursdays at 6pm in Lafayette 311 and check out www.transfair.org, www.oxfamamerica.org, www.usft.org and www.globalexchange.org