Monday, May 07, 2007

It's the little things

Starbucks never intended to pay for the coffee it sells to the public. That's just good business: get a low price from your supplier and charge a high price to your client. All businesses work on these grounds. What becomes disturbing about them is the human rights nightmare that begins to come true in countries where the coffee comes from. Because the subsistence farmers can't produce enough to sustain themselves, they are forced to over farm the land they have and cut down forests to farm even more land. Is Starbucks directly responsible for this? Surely they are not the only company to blame for taking advantage of an already extant situation, even if it is abominable.

Such situations seem overwhelming. After all, I can personally choose to avoid Starbucks (full disclosure: I already do, their coffee tastes burnt) and shop elsewhere, but millions of people go into millions of Starbucks every day. Moreover, Starbucks has an agreement with Chapters here, and after much soul-searching, I can't abandon my bookstore. (more on the effect of high-end book retail on public libraries later) Should I be writing emails to the CEO of Chapters/Indigo to get them to pressure Starbucks? Do I give up since they went with the American giant instead of Tim Horton's or the Second Cup and aren't worried about the effect these companies have on their clients and suppliers?

Indigo on the corner of Ste. Catherine and McGill College sells fair-trade coffee. It's not a huge advertising platform (though it should be) as they are the only location without a Starbucks in it. If you come in with a reusable cup, the coffee is 1$. It's downtown, it's huge, it's unionized, it sells fair-trade coffee at a discount to those who don't wish to carry around a paper cup for a while and then throw it away. Why is this better for me than a rabid email campaign? Notwithstanding the fact that Chapters will likely send my mail straight to Junk, it's busy there all the time. I see people going in and out, the lines are just as long as they are around the corner. These choices don't have to be disruptive or expensive to our lives. We are often told that it will cost more to go green, to choose humanitarian products and services. I inherently disagree with that argument given the current expense of most crap, and I doubt that making something simpler and cleaner should by definition cost more for me to consume it.

Drop by with a cup you already have. It's not Starbucks, it's better.


Ryshpan said...

I didn't know Indigo sells fair trade coffee. I don't drink coffee whilst in bookstores anymore. I've always preferred Indigo to Chapters - I know they're branches of the same company, but Indigo stores were always laid out better than Chapters, I find.

And I'm a Second Cupper through and through. I only drink Starbucks in the States because it's right beside the BMI building where I have my meetings. And even then, I have iced tea.

Freshwater Mermaid said...

ya, f#$in awesome! It's only the one one Ste. Catherine's though, not any other.

also, iced-tea? what a pussy...


ZoeyBella said...

I'm one of those who are hopelessly addicted to Starbucks. But that could just be all the hype behind it. Being Italian, I know I could probably make a better latte at home.

Freshwater Mermaid said...

sounds delicious Bella;)