From: Elizabeth Hawley , Organic Consumers Association, More from this Affiliate
Published April 21, 2008 07:28 AM

Students Call for Fair Trade Coffee on Campus

It's no secret that college students like their coffee.

With late nights and early classes, some students depend on the caffeine in coffee to get them through the day. And there's no shortage of places to buy coffee; there are more than 10 spots on the University of Massachusetts campus alone. But some students aren't choosing their coffee just based on taste. Some students are looking for coffee produced under fair trade standards.

"Our goal for this semester is to get all coffee [in the dining commons] to be fair trade," said Coby Kalter, coordinator for the Fair Trade campaign of MassPIRG.

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Dining commons and campus stores serve one blend of fair trade certified coffee. The People's Market and Pura Vida both sell exclusively fair trade coffee, Kalter said.

While there are multiple organizations that certify coffee as fair trade, Kalter said that TransFair is the most commonly used certifier. According to the TransFair Web site, TransFair is "the only independent, third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the U.S."

"The first thing is to make sure the farmers . get a fair wage for their crop," Kalter said.

He also said that a fair wage allows farmers not only to survive but to educate their children.

The TransFair Web site lists a number of principles that determine whether a product can be labeled fair trade under their label. Among the qualifications, a Fair Trade certified product must offer safe working conditions and living wages to farmers and workers. Products must also be environmentally sustainable, and farmers and farm workers must invest in their communities.

"I want to know that my coffee's coming from somewhere that has some integrity," said UMass student Sara Vitello.

"People need coffee," said Vitello. "You go to Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks or anywhere on campus and there's only one option for fair trade."

Vitello said that she would like to see more options for fair trade on campus. She said that she has cut back on how much coffee she drinks because she wants to make sure she's only drinking fair trade.

Other students put less thought into their coffee purchases.

"I just know bits and pieces [about fair trade]" said sophomore Vicky Liang.

"If it's at a store I'll buy it," said Liang, who also said she wouldn't go out of her way to buy fair trade.

Laing said that she's become more aware of Fair Trade since coming to UMass.

Kalter said fair trade is important because "it affects all of us because this is a consumer culture and all of the things we buy have a global connection, whether it's the clothes you wear or the coffee you drink."

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