Bon Appétit adds fair trade coffee in response to student’s concern

Because of Becca Harlow’s passion for social justice, fair trade coffee will be sold on campus.

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John Buchanan

Ashleigh Fox/THE CHIMES

Timothy Buchanan , Writer

In addition to serving the usual Seattle's Best, Common Grounds will start start carrying fair trade coffee this week. | Ashleigh Fox/THE CHIMES


Bon Appétit Biola will begin carrying fair trade coffee this week, and no one is more excited about it than Becca Harlow, the sophomore sociology major and social justice minor who helped spark the change by voicing her coffee-related concerns to Bon Appétit’s management earlier this semester.

“It’s a huge deal,” she said. “Think of how many people we could affect, how many workers, just by changing Biola’s campus. We drink so much coffee here, and when a whole institution changes their coffee to fair trade, that’s big changes coming to these workers’ lives.”

Fair trade coffee helps ensure fair wages and decent working conditions for laborers in the countries where the coffee is grown.

“Fair Trade guarantees farmers a minimum price, and links farmers directly with importers, creating long-term sustainability,” according to fairtradeusa.org.

STUDENT SPEAKS UP AND SEES RESULTS 

Harlow was inspired to contact Bon Appétit after discussing the impact that consumers can have globally in one of her social justice classes.

“I was sitting in Commons a few weeks after that,” she explained, “and I wondered what would happen if I just emailed [Bon Appétit].” She emailed Steve Rall, Bon Appétit Biola’s general manager, who responded the next day and told her he could make it happen, she said.

Biola has carried fair trade coffee before, according to Rall, but never before has he noticed serious student interest in it.

“This is the first time that I’ve heard people wanting to get fair trade coffee, so we’re going to bring fair trade on campus,” he said. It will be available at Common Grounds, The Talon and the Coffee Cart — the three primary coffee vendors on campus — by this Friday or next Monday, Rall said.

BEING A CONSCIENTIOUS CONSUMER MATTERS 

Both Harlow and Rall agreed that awareness is a major factor in how we approach our purchases as consumers.

“I think getting the word out is the main thing, because people just don’t know,” Harlow said. “It’s super easy [to buy fair trade] now; you just have to do it.”

Harlow’s passion for social justice derives from her experience and knowledge of the injustices taking place in the world, she said.

“I’ve travelled a lot, I’ve done lots of mission trips all over the world, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve been able to hear about things and read about things that shouldn’t happen,” she said. “Honestly, I think it’s the Lord impressing this on my heart and saying this is his heart, because he desires for us to treat our workers fairly and to live justly. It says that in the Bible — treat your workers fairly, pay them fairly — and if we don’t do that as Christians, then we’re hypocrites.”

Individual consumers carry a lot of responsibility to be conscientious about what they buy, according to Harlow, but she also understands the difficulty of bearing that load.

“It’s hard because a lot of people don’t even know what fair trade is,” she said. “A lot of people think, ‘I’m not directly affecting these workers,’ but you’re supporting that system by buying that cup of coffee, whether you know it or not.”

Unfortunately, awareness about social issues often comes more slowly in Christian circles than in secular ones, Rall observed.

“The Christian communities are about five to 10 years behind the secular community on [issues like this],” he said. “But turning it around, Christians are really starting to come on board now, [realizing that] we do have to be good stewards.”

JUSTICE ISSUES EXTEND TO CHOCOLATE, CLOTHING AND BEYOND

Christian stewardship extends far beyond coffee, according to Harlow. Chocolate and clothing are also major industries haunted by widespread exploitation.

“Chocolate is huge,” she said. “[With] a lot of our chocolate, the cocoa beans are picked by slaves in other countries, and so you have to make sure that [what you buy] says ‘slave free chocolate.’”

There are plenty of places to get high-quality, slave-free chocolate, she added, but consumers need to be intentional and know what they are buying.

“Trader Joe’s offers really good slave-free chocolate, and it’s organic too,” she said. Hershey’s, Nestle and Mars, on the other hand, use slave-picked cocoa, she noted.

Concerning clothing, Harlow’s advice to Biola students is to buy recycled as much as possible. Shopping at thrift stores and mending old clothing instead of buying new are great ways to avoid supporting exploitation, since even clothing labeled “Made in the USA” can come from sweatshops, she said.

Overall, Harlow would like for Biola to become more aware and intentional as a community when it comes to the purchases they make.

“I would just love to see Biola become a place that is thinking outside the bubble — that is thinking of the world that we live in and how our everyday actions, like buying a cup of coffee, can affect someone halfway across the world,” she said. “I would love to see the campus become globally minded. It would be incredible to get to see that happen. I know it’s hard — it’s really hard — but the little things that you can do make a big difference.”
 

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