Can we even say that anymore?
In honor of Earth Day, I’ve decided to work from home and avoid using my car. Here in Boston, it’s a beautiful, sunny day – not too much of a hardship to be sitting at my laptop on my back porch, cup of coffee in hand.
But seriously, like so many of us, I have been thinking a lot about my own energy use patterns and behaviors, and what changes I can make.
As an organization, we at Equal Exchange have also been thinking about our roles, contributions and responsibilities to the planet, our farmer partners, and our network of allies, partners, and friends. What kind of change can be achieved through consumer dollars and individual actions, and what kind of change can only occur when people are organized and use their collective power to enact or modify policies and laws?
For years, Equal Exchange has supported our farmer partners in their efforts to organize and make changes in their communities. In this country, we’ve encouraged consumers and retailers to use their consumer power to make change. Truly, we are partners in this food system and on this planet. We continue to believe in this power; we continue to see consumers as the “sleeping giant,” who, when awakened will truly be a force to be reckoned with!
Now we’re coming to realize that we can – and must – continue to use this power, encourage others to use their discernment when making purchases, AND, take additional steps.
What are these steps? We recognized the need to continue working on environmental issues; promoting sustainable agriculture has been part of our mission from day one and we know our farmer partners care deeply for the earth, live more closely connected to its rhythms, and feel the impacts of environmental degradation much more acutely. We also know that U.S. consumers are concerned, and that the desire to protect our fragile planet and to reverse climate change is no longer a goal just for the tree-hugging types; it is imperative for everyone.
Like the Fair Trade system – which is a wonderful vehicle for connecting consumers to producers – caring for our environment is another opportunity to unite people in working toward a common goal that connects us all.
So, when we discussed our Small Farmers. Big Change. campaign, we decided to take one additional step by supporting our farmer partners’ efforts to plant coffee, citrus, timber and other shade trees; protect and conserve natural resources, such as soil and water; convert to organic production relying on organic fertilizer and natural pesticides; and implement a myriad of other important initiatives.
In this way, the farmers do the work and we support them financially.
But we also recognize that we can’t just leave the burden of protecting the environment on the shoulders of the farmers. So our campaign is also focused on our own actions. This year, Equal Exchange is conducting a thorough audit of our environmental footprint and will continue to look for ways to green our own organization. More and more, we are working with our café, retail, and Interfaith Program partners to find ways to green their businesses and organizations.
Finally, as another, equally important component of our campaign, we will begin working with other organizations to change laws and policies affecting the food system and the planet.
Our conclusion: all of these steps are important and necessary. We know that each of us can take individual actions, use our consumer power to support change, donate money to support farmer initiatives, and join with others to advocate for changes in specific laws and policies affecting trade and agriculture, the food system, and the environment.
This weekend, Michael Pollen had an article in the New York Times Magazine called, “Why bother? Looking for a few good reasons to go green.“ I was inspired by his comments about the importance of change on a large scale, as well as the need for individual actions. “The Big Problem is nothing more or less than the sum total of countless little everyday choices, most of them made by us (consumer spending represents 70 percent of our economy), and most of the rest of them made in the name of our needs and desires and preferences,” he wrote.
Wow… 70% of our economy? So, armed with that statistic for inspiration, we’d like to invite you to join us. Purchase wisely. Support change. Pay attention to your footprints and take actions to reduce negative impacts. Work collectively to make changes in your offices, congregations, and communities. Learn more about agro-fuels, the food crisis, and sustainable agriculture by clicking the links mentioned here on this page.
And… starting today, we’d like to offer you an additional concrete way to help us raise funds for our farmer partners’ efforts to protect the environment. For every 12 oz. package of Love Buzz purchased, Equal Exchange will donate 20 cents/package to our Small Farmers. Green Planet. fund. (If you shop in a food co-op and prefer to buy your coffee in bulk, we will donate 25 cents/pound for every purchased pound of Co-op Blend.)
Every dollar of the money raised will go directly to our farmer partners in Mexico, Nicaragua, and Colombia to support their reforestation, organic conversion, and environmental protection efforts. Visit the Green Partnerships page to learn more about our farmer partners’ environmental projects.
And if you’re not a coffee drinker (!!), you can choose to write a tax-deductible check to Grassroots International and mail it to: Equal Exchange, 50 United Drive, West Bridgewater, MA 02379. Don’t forget to write Small Farmers. Green Planet. on the check.
Today, on this sunny, beautiful Earth Day, let’s all commit to taking one more step!