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Fair Trade Coffee: Start Your Day Right

Your journey to class in the morning is simple: snooze your alarm 4 times, roll out of bed 30 minutes before class starts, wake your roommates up getting dressed, throw your laptop in your bag, and start your trek up Bruin Walk with just enough time to stop at Kerckhoff for a pastry and some much-needed caffeine. But what about that coffee you just bought? Its journey is much longer, and much less innocent.

From Seed to Cappuccino

The grounds used to brew your coffee start their journey in the high-altitude jungles of Central America, East Africa, or Southeast Asia, where it grows as a red cherry. The coffee trees are tended to and harvested by workers who work up to 16 hours a day under harsh conditions. For every dollar you spend on a cup of coffee, these workers earn less than 3 cents. The practice is also environmentally destructive, as the beans are often grown on large plantations which practice monoculture and utilize chemical fertilizers and pesticides. ​ The cherries are then dried and processed into beans in a weeks-long process, at which point they must be painstakingly hand-sorted to ensure high quality. They are then ready to be exported to North America or Europe, at a price determined by stock traders on Wall Street who never come in contact with the beans or the producers. After being carefully taste-tested by experts, the beans are sold directly to large companies like Nestle and Starbucks, or through intermediaries to your favorite local artisan coffee company, where they are roasted. Finally, they can be ground, brewed, and sold to you.

How Fair Trade Helps

You may be thinking, “this is great, but what does it have to do with UCLA?” In 2016, with lots of hard work from the UCLA Fair Trade Campaign and E3: Ecology, Economy, & Equity, UCLA signed a resolution making it the largest Fair Trade University in the country at the time! This means that every outlet on campus offers at least 2 Fair Trade products. Here’s where you can find Fair Trade products on campus:All coffee on the Hill is Fair Trade Certified! This includes a roast developed by The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf specifically for UCLA.Much, but not all, of the tea and sugar on the Hill are Fair Trade (be sure to look at the logos when choosing what sugar to add to your coffee or what tea to brew)Every ASUCLA coffee shop offers Fair Trade coffee (ask for the “Velvet Roast”) and tea (the Numi brand), and many have Fair Trade chocolate and sugar.Ackerman and other campus bookstores sell numerous of Fair Trade products (again, look for the logos if you’re not sure!).While this is a major accomplishment, there is more work to be done, and we need your help! For example, although Kerckhoff and other coffee shops offer Fair Trade options, it is not the default option when you order a cup of coffee and not always clearly marked, so that cup you pick up on your way to class isn’t Fair Trade unless you specifically ask for it. Secondly, although having Fair Trade coffee and tea or sugar is great, there are still many other products which may be exploitative or unsustainable. We hope to expand the selection of Fair Trade products to include clothing, produce, and more!UCLA wants to support ethical and sustainable practices, but will only do so if students demand it. Thus, we are asking you to sign our petition demanding the changes listed above. UCLA prides itself as a world-class research institution dedicated to improving the world, and we believe putting Fair Trade first can help it put that mission into practice.

Sign our petition here:



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