For years now, I have been buying only Fair Trade, Shade Grown, Organic coffee. But, one thing I have never managed to do is get up early to brew this sustainable coffee and take it into work with me four days a week. The result: I, like so many tired, coffee-loving people, find myself at Starbucks, ordering coffee whose origins are unknown to me and drinking it out of a bleached paper cup. Sure, from day to day it may not seem like a big deal, but when you think about how many of us grab a quick cuppa Joe each day (or two, or three), it adds up very quickly on two fronts. First, there is the quantity of waste we generate with all of those disposable cups, the most offensive arrangement being the giant plastic iced coffee cup doubled up with an even bigger styrofoam one (shame on you Dunkin Donuts). But, even more importantly, there's a great deal of power being exercised when that many consumers make a repeat, daily purchase. We could all walk out tomorrow and tell Starbucks we're not coming back until everything they serve is shade grown. And guess what? They would have to comply. It's easy to forget that, added together, our daily personal choices do make for a serious force in the business world. As Gary Hirshberg, the owner of Stonyfield, points out in Food, Inc., it's the reason that Wal-Mart no longer carries milk from hormone-treated cows. We do have a voice, and even our smallest choices matter.
With this in mind, I recently made an investment in a teeny tiny French press, pictured above next to some lovely fruit courtesy of Enterprise Farm. I used it at home this morning for fun, but starting this Monday I will get my daily coffee at my desk rather than at a counter. Thanks to this adorable contraption, I will know where my coffee comes from and how it was grown. I can drink it out of a ceramic mug that makes a much better hand warmer than cardboard. And, I can change my part of the group message to places like Starbucks, no longer sending the signal that everything they're doing is a.o.k. with me. All this, while saving myself a good bit of money as well. Tres magnifique!
Update: As noted by a coffee-minded reader (see comments), Starbucks does have better practices than many coffee retailers when it comes to how their beans are grown and traded, all of which is detailed on their newly revamped (and rather impressive) website. While I am aware that Starbucks does have some good practices, the issue for me is that I can't be sure what lies behind the daily variety on any given morning. According to the site, 75% of their coffee is currenty "repsonsibly grown, ethically traded," and they have set goals for environmental responsibility, though nothing I can see on shade growing. You can let them know that you appreciate their efforts to be responsible, transparent corporate citizens, and that you'd like to see them reach 100% by dropping them a line here. If they can reach that goal, busy coffee-lovers no longer have to worry that the variety in their re-usable mug falls into the 25% whose provenance is questionable. If you are a devoted Dunkin' drinker, or Peet's, or elsewhere, encourage them to raise their sustainable standards as well!