Coffee is one of the most eagerly demanded crops on a global scale. The Coffee Production industry in the U.S. alone earns an annual $12 billion revenue while employing more than 21,000 workers across 670 businesses. Starbucks, Green Mountain, Kraft, J.M. Smucker, and Nestle are among the industry leaders. And while some of the beans are produced right in Hawaii, most are sourced internationally. Coffee is and always has been a major commodity focused on profit margins. But the means and methods of securing your favorite conventional brew may be leading to unprecedented shortages and eventual global crises as coffee prices soar over the next three years. Fortunately, there's a solution: Simply switch to Fair Trade Coffee.
What Is Fair Trade Coffee and How Does it Differ from Conventional Coffee?
You've likely at least heard the term “Fair Trade”. It's often printed on higher-priced goods such as home furnishings, handmade jewelry, chocolate, and of course, coffee. Perhaps you've compared it to a cheaper item, saw little difference, and opted for the more cost-effective product. And you know what? You're not alone. But in the eyes of many environmentalists, that type of conditioned thinking is part of a larger problem and is ultimately ruining the planet. We're all out to save a buck and it's totally understandable. But major businesses many times play off of that natural inclination and ironically drive up the cost of coffee in the long run.
The simplest answer to “What is Fair Trade Coffee” is to reply with the word “organic”. Since 1988, fair trade has evolved as a way to maintain quality and control the big businesses that might otherwise irreversibly harm the planet's most valuable resources. Certainly, organic measures are part of this. Typical conventional farming usually involves harmful chemical herbicides and pesticides-many that scorch the soil, poison local wildlife, and lead to disease when heavily ingested. Common sense dictates that this is detrimental on many levels including both the environment and your own personal health. Of course, Fair Trade Coffee goes beyond basic organic farming techniques.
What Is the True Cost of Coffee?
Note: The “true” costs are those that would be applied if most companies outside of America applied sustainable practices. Instead, child labor gets involved in many other countries, unsafe working conditions are often applied, and land is either unfairly seized or stolen. There is no such thing as sustainability in such cases, and the world as a whole suffers as a result.
Fair Trade challenges this conventional thinking by offering a new system for the entire industry. With Fair Trade Coffee, farmers are paid a fair price for their crops and effort. Workers are provided safe and clean working conditions. Absolutely no child or forced labor is permitted. Sustainability is promised with the banning of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Community development projects are established and invested in. Children go to school instead of work. Natural habitats are preserved instead of razed. Ultimately, Fair Trade Coffee ensures that coffee harvesting is not driven by purely business interests. Instead, it aims to set fair guidelines designed to deeply benefit the communities in which the particular coffee is harvested.
The top four coffee manufacturers in the U.S. are currently leading the pack to explore more fair trade options thus ensuring that future generations can enjoy the delicious nectar so many coffee lovers have come to require on a daily basis. Companies that have transitioned into Fair Trade products such as single-serve coffee pods have already helped previously endangered animal species regain a foothold on our planet. It's just one step towards improving life as we know it, but it's a big one.