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La Jolla Mom

Fair Trade Versus Conventional Coffee: Which Do You Buy?

BY La Jolla Mom

Initially, I was hesitant to try a Keurig coffee maker because I perceived it to be a less environmentally friendly option. I’m happy that I was wrong. La Jolla Dad argues that before our Keurig, we were wasting far too much coffee and water in our old coffee maker.

I also take comfort in the fact that Green Mountain Coffee promotes sustainable coffee. Prior to my Keurig Ambassadorship, I made a point of buying Fair Trade Certified Organic K-Cup Portion Packs. I knew they were better for the planet and farmers, but wasn’t sure exactly what Fair Trade Certified meant or exactly why I should (or shouldn’t) be buying this coffee.

What Is Fair Trade?

In a nutshell, Fair Trade Certified means that co-ops and farmers get a fair price for their coffee beans. The price is $1.55 per pound for organic beans and $1.35 for conventionally grown beans. Because these prices exceed the co-ops’ production costs, they are able to reinvest the proceeds into health care and helping the farmers feed their families.

To qualify for the Fair Trade certification, farmers must belong to a democratically organized co-op. These farmers are heavily monitored and there is an audit trail showing exactly who produced what coffee. Fair Trade Certified coffee is also better for the environment because the farmers are held to responsible land use standards.

Conventionally Sourced Coffee Issues

This makes complete sense: Conventionally sourced coffee prices are set by global supply and demand, as coffee is a commodity. Without boring you with too much economics, the market price of coffee can (and does) fall below the cost of production, which can be devastating for farmers.

Green Mountain Coffee does buy some specialty-grade conventional coffee, but they do not buy commodity coffee. Furthermore, Green Mountain Coffee says that when they buy coffee through conventional sourcing practices they have little or no knowledge of who produced the coffee, how they produced it, or how much of the purchase price actually reached the producer.

Why Fair Trade Can Be A Tough Sell

The answer is due to money. Cheap coffee, even if it falls below farmers’ production costs, benefits companies who roast, package and sell it. Green Mountain Coffee admits that they do benefit from low prices in the short term, however, the long term effects (poverty and environmental impact) are even more costly.

Green Mountain Believes Buying Fair Trade Can Help

Approximately 40% of Green Mountain Coffee is Fair Trade Certified, but as they raise awareness and encourage consumers to switch over to Fair Trade Certified, this percentage will grow. There are many people out there who will argue that Fair Trade Certified coffee is too much red tape for the farmers and not as great as people say it is. However, I’ll continue to buy it. Merchants I trust (like La Jolla’s own Bird Rock Coffee Roasters) believe in it.

Good News: Pumpkin Spice Is Fair Trade Certified

It used to be that selection of Fair Trade Certified coffee was limited. Not anymore. Two of my recent Keurig K-Cup Portion Pack favorite flavors, Wild Blueberry and Pumpkin Spice, are both Fair Trade Certified. Both are sold at my local Target and both are a great way to welcome colder weather.

So do you buy Fair Trade Certified or Conventional coffee? Tell us why.

*Sources: Green Mountain Coffee and my economics degree from UCSD.
**I am a Keurig Ambassador and received my initial Wild Blueberry and Pumpkin Spice K-Cup Portion Packs complimentary, however, I bought the orange Pumpkin Spice K-Cups in the photo.  They are that good.

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5 thoughts on “Fair Trade Versus Conventional Coffee: Which Do You Buy?

  1. Fair Trade all the way! This is what is key, “Green Mountain Coffee admits that they do benefit from low prices in the short term, however, the long term effects (poverty and environmental impact) are even more costly.” If American Corporations and Businesses followed this model, then our economy wouldn’t be in the dire straights that it’s in.

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