I think I’ve decided to break a New Year’s Resolution. Indeed, it is only February, but this resolution is from last year. 13 months is a reasonable length of time to try something out before reviewing the decision, right?
Last year, I resolved that I would not buy (black/green/white) tea or coffee unless it was Fairtrade*
*or otherwise ethically certified in some other tightly controlled way (I decided Rainforest Alliance was insufficient).
I had already been trying to keep these factors in mind when buying boxes/bags of tea. This resolution made a difference as I started to include “having a cup of tea after my meal in a pub” type buying as well as “in a supermarket trying to decide which box of chai to buy” type buying.
The aim was to educate myself about which establishments served Fairtrade tea and/or coffee, and which products they offered, as well as (of course) to support producers and workers’ rights through buying Fairtrade certified products. I know that Fairtrade is a crude measure and that there are lots of other important issues when trying to shop ethically (e.g. how companies treat their staff all the way along up to the person who actually serves you; their business practices outside the UK). But one has to start somewhere.
The resolution was successful. Perhaps not a 100% success rate, but I think I broke it fewer than 5 times over 13 months (as stated, it allowed me wiggle room: I could order non-Fairtrade hot chocolate, or a “tea” like peppermint that included no camellia sinensis) and that was mostly by accident (blurting out “tea” when asked what drink I wanted without thinking).
Over the course of the year, I learnt a lot. Some places serve Fairtrade tea and coffee: M&S cafes, AMT Coffee, Cuppa Cino. Others serve Fairtrade coffee but not tea: Starbucks, Pizza Express. Others do neither: Costa Coffee, Caffe Nero, most pubs. Some companies are involved with charitable / social responsibility projects, but don’t come under any form of certification, e.g. Lavazza coffee (used by many pubs), Starbucks “Tazo” tea. There is enough Fairtrade tea/coffee on the high street/railway station platform that one can generally get a cup without much hassle.
So. Why give this resolution up, if it still seems to be a good thing, and, moreover achievable?
Because it’s becoming a burden, and one where I now think it’s not worth the angst it causes me. I believe that angst can be good and useful and necessary as a spur to action, but I think I’ve worried about this issue enough.
I will still prefer to buy from places which sell Fairtrade, particularly AMT Coffee and Cuppa Cino who have everything (applicable) Fairtrade (as this makes me think that the companies actually care about ethics, rather than just bowing to consumer pressure on a few items). I will still read the fine print of advertising and try to work out which products have which certifications attached to them. I will still try to find out about other charitable / ecological / social responsibility projects that companies undertake. But I will also occasionally have a cup of tea in a pub without worrying.