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Where Exactly Does that Cup of Coffee Come From?

By Green Diva Meg
January 18, 2012
File under: Environmental Concerns, Gifts, Products, Sustainable Practices

Why Should We Care? by Green Diva Meg
These posts explore a myriad of topics relating to green, sustainable and healthy living and offer simple and clear information from the fun and quirky point of view of the Green Divas. Each post provides practical, no nonsense information on What Can We Do to make a difference.


Do you know where your coffee comes from? And I don’t mean Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. Chances are that if it isn’t Fair Trade Certified, the folks that grew, harvested and produced the original coffee beans worked in poor conditions, were grossly underpaid and environmental sustainability was not a priority.  And if that isn’t bad enough for you, consider that coffee and many other NON Fair Trade commodities and products made in developing countries, have a supply chain that involves a LOT more ‘middle men’ that keep the cost to YOU high and the benefit to the honest producer low. So what exactly is Fair Trade . . . ?

What is Fair Trade?

Fair Trade is a socially responsible, market-based standard for products made in developing countries, where working conditions and pay may not be regulated and may be considered unfair or unjust to the workers.  It creates better trading conditions, whereby socio-economic and environmental sustainability are a priority and the producers derive a more direct and substantial benefit from their work. Here’s an interesting history of Fair Trade.

According to the Rishi Tea company – a Fair Trade company of course – there are
6 key principles to Fair Trade

  1. fair price for products
  2. fair labor conditions
  3. direct trade
  4. democratic and transparent organizations
  5. community development
  6. environmental sustainability

Fair Trade Products

Handcrafts, coffee, sugar, cocoa, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit, chocolate, flowers and gold.

Growing Industry

According to the Fairtrade International (aka FLO – the product certification system associated with around 90% of all Fair Trade products sold annually around the world) sales 2010 data report for sales by consumer country and by product category.

  • Global sales grew by 27% from 2009 – 2010 to $5.8 billion
  • U.S. sales grew 5% to $1.3 billion
  • Canada sales grew 6% to $330 million
  • UK $1.8 billion (up 40%).
  • The biggest growth was reported in the Czech Republic (386%), South Africa (315%), and Australia/New Zealand (258%).
  • Gobal sales of fair trade commodities grew: sugar was up 41%, and cocoa was up 153%. Coffee, grew 19%.
  • Sales of wine, sports balls, and quinoa each more than doubled. Sales of fruit juice, herbs & spices, bananas and fresh fruit declined.



Increase your awareness of Fair Trade commodities and products and consider who is getting your money when you make a purchase.

  • – they have a great campaign called Make Every Cup Fair to help raise awareness about fair trade coffee and tea in particular and ask that folks take a pledge to drink only fair trade coffees and teas.
  • – offers more information on certification, producers, products, etc.
  • Fair Trade Your SupermarketGreen America has a great program that offers anyone who is interested in raising awareness in their own local supermarket Action Kits, with everything you need to help convince your supermarket to start buying more Fair Trade products.

Listen to the Green Divas Sleeping Naked is Green 5-min Podcast on Fair Trade

The Green Divas Radio Show, podcasts, audio vignettes and blog posts feature fun and low-stress ways to live a deeper shade of green, while maintaining some comfort and style. Green Diva Meg, co-host Green Diva Lisa and sidekick, Green Dude Scott offer tons of easily accessible information and resources to help make the journey to a more sustainable world easier and a little more fun and entertaining. The radio show broadcasts live every Saturday morning from WMTR 1250 AM in Northern, NJ/NY Metro area, streaming live on, or catch up on the podcast.


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