Beginning in September, Yale residential dining halls will fill their coffee makers with Fair Trade java.
Wednesday morning, the Yale Sustainable Food Committee voted unanimously to replace all non-flavored coffee with Fair Trade coffee, which comes from companies that pay coffee growers a living wage. The change reflects lobbying efforts by students and is part of a larger international Fair Trade movement to ensure living wages for coffee farmers.
“I’m really happy about this for the symbolic value,” said Matthew Nickson ’03, who led the Yale Fair Trade campaign. “This decision in itself probably won’t have much of an effect on coffee growers. But hopefully it will have a snowball effect — and other universities will follow suit. It’s a good thing Yale has made a responsible choice.”
Professor Leslie Brisman, a Fair Trade advocate, said it is important that “fair trade certified” stickers be placed on Yale’s coffee-brewing equipment to provide publicity for the cause. In doing so, Brisman said he hoped Yale students will be inspired to make a difference in other ways.
“I have faith in the ability of Yale students to change the world. My great hope is that this will spearhead other Yale students to find responsible forms of globalization,” Brisman said. “Coffee is the easy one. The hard thing is getting students to buy clothes and toys that are fair trade — but coffee is the only one right now.”
Nickson said he will meet with Ernst Huff, associate vice president of student financial and administration services, on Friday to figure out the logistics.
“We’re over the hurdle to make the decision to move forward,” Huff said.
Brisman said it was important for Yale to stand behind this cause. He said Fair Trade coffee seems to be the only noncontroversial issue on campus.
But some have said the Fair Trade coffee movement does not go far enough.
In November, Sharleen Maldonado, chairwoman of the U.N. Border Economic Development Council, said the plan shows “good heart.” But she said Fair Trade falls short of economic justice approaches recommended by the Economic Justice League.
“No matter what, Fair Trade only addresses green beans, and believe me, that is not where the profit margin exists,” Maldonado said.
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