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Friday, September 19, 2008

Make My Coffee Green

Mary Campbell, Pinellas County Extension Director, Urban Sustainability Agent

One of our favorite beverages – coffee - can provide another opportunity to support sustainability or go green. “Fair trade” is an organized and market-based approach to empowering small farmers and promoting sustainability.
Coffee was the first commodity in the United States for which there is an independent monitor that guarantees that producers are paid a fair wage for their product, work in decent conditions and follow sustainable farming methods. More and more people care about the conditions of the people who produce the products they buy and that the product has fewer environmental impacts.

Fair trade produce remains a small percentage of world trade, but it is growing. Only 3.3 percent of coffee sold in the United States in 2006 was certified fair trade, but that was more than eight times the level in 2001, according to TransFair USA. Like consumer awareness of organic products a decade ago, fair trade awareness is growing. In 2006, 27 percent of Americans said they were aware of the certification; up from 12 percent in 2004, according to a study by the New-York based National Coffee Association.
TransFair USA, a nonprofit organization, is one of twenty members of Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International (FLO), and the only third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States.

Big chains are marketing fair trade coffee to varying degrees. Espresso served at the 5,400 Dunkin' Donuts stores in the United States is fair trade. McDonald's stores in New England sell only fair trade coffee. In 2006, Starbucks bought 50 percent more fair trade coffee than in 2005.
There is no governmental standard for fair trade certification, the same situation as with "organic" until a few years ago. Some fair trade produce also carries the organic label. Currently over 60%of Fair Trade Certified coffee in the U.S. is also certified organic. One important difference is the focus of the labels: organic refers to how food is cultivated, while fair trade is primarily concerned with the condition of the farmer and his laborers.

Transfair Fair Trade Coffee

Monday, September 15, 2008

Kick the Bottled Water Habit

Mary Campbell, Pinellas County Extension Director, Urban Sustainability Agent

Bottled water is easy and convenient. The sales of bottled water have grown tremendously is recent years. Each year, people are drinking 30 billion throwaway bottles of water. A large majority of these end up in landfills. But even before they get there, they've taken a toll on the environment from the oil to transport and manufacture to the waste handling.

Is bottled water superior in quality to tap water? The regulations governing the quality of public water supplies are far stricter than those governing bottled-water plants. So why do consumers shun tap water that is low cost and purchase bottled water? If convenience is the answer, then using a reusable bottle can solve that concern. Blind taste tests have actually shown there is little taste difference between some bottled water and tap water.

Do you have to give up your favorite bottled water to go green? Not necessarily. Recycling the plastic bottles is a great step to green up the use of plastic bottles, but there are additional ways you can reduce waste and even save money. Purchase large containers (3- 5 gal.) of bottled water and put into reusable bottles to make it convenient to take with you. A note of caution—although it is tempting, refilling single-serve water bottles with tap water and reusing them repeatedly is not recommended due to potential sanitation concerns. Refilling these water bottles with tap water, without sanitizing the bottles in between can introduce harmful bacteria to the water.

City and state governments are looking at the economics of banning bottled water. Citing environmental concerns, Los Angeles; San Francisco; Ann Arbor, Mich.; and the state of Illinois have banned the use of public funds to purchase bottled water for city and state functions. In June, the US Conference of Mayors adopted a resolution to bring attention to the negative impact of bottled water and promote local sources.

Whatever your choice – go green by recycling, reduce packaging waste and have reusable containers handy. Take our Check Your Green Commitment Pledge and kick the bottled water habit today!

Take the Pledge here