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Monthly Archives: July 2007

Well, even though Just Us! just opened a fair trade café here in the Beach where I can pick up fair trade coffee within walking distance, I decided to look into green coffee. It was one of those things that I was always curious about, and once I put the idea to my husband, he was off and running with it. Then last week I talked to a woman representing Merchants of Green Coffee at the Riverdale Farm Farmers’ Market and asked her how much the farmers get and she said they guarantee that they get at least $1.26 USD/lb (which works out to around $2.77/kg) which is much better than the $0.23/kg discussed before… Then I started reading about how coffee is best consumed within 5 days after roasting. What? Five DAYS? (And 3 hours after grinding and 15 minutes after brewing.) So then we were determined to go in and get the demo and taste test. And we made it down there today (the little ones loved it – it’s a big warehouse with lots to look at and the great smell of freshly roasted, ground and brewed coffee).

Merchants of Green CoffeeWell, it was a flavour explosion. We were fully converted. Where do we sign?!?! They showed us the dotted line and we are now coffee roasters. No more industry middlemen taking from the farmer, no more relying on the futures market for pricing, and no more stale coffee!

Comments:

I’m not sure, but I believe the coffee roasting process releases certain chemicals you wouldn’t want in a home environment (e.g. aldehydes, organic acids, phenols and other hydrocarbons) as well as particulate matter. Is that a concern with these home roasting machines?
MV | 08.02.07 – 4:01 pm

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I’m not sure if that affects home roasting (it’s on a very small scale) but to be honest, I can’t stand the smell of it, so we do the roasting outside. So I’m not too worried about it.
Thanks so much for the heads up – I’ll look into it for home roasters, or make sure the roasting keeps on being done outside.
Lynn

Lynn | 08.06.07 – 10:21 pm

From the Guardian Unlimited:
by George Monbiot

The bottom line: Getting green is not about buying as many environmentally friendly products as you can. It is about using fewer resources. It might just involve sacrifice. It’s about lobbying for political change.

My husband’s favourite new quote (from the article): "No political challenge can be met by shopping."

If you must buy, buy used, buy local, buy green. But first think about whether you really need to buy at all. And that’s my change.

bike from craigslist(Any Queen fans?)

I haven’t owned a bike since my last one got stolen off my 2nd floor balcony in Vancouver 8 or 9 years ago. But if I’m serious about getting green I figure it’s definitely the way to go. So I bought (second hand, of course) a bike today. I’ve been out on it for errands twice and it’s great! But man am I out of shape (I walk a lot but I haven’t used my cycling muscles in some time obviously)… I guess that’ll change. Another bonus.

(Any True Romance fans out there?)

I’ve been using vinegar for my floors and many other cleaning needs for some time now, and I switched to Nellie’s All Natural Laundry Soda a month or so ago, but there are things like soap (we have a thing for liquid hand soap here) and stain remover (the Laundry Soda is great but for stains, you need to soak, which I don’t seem to have the time or the inclination for), and toilet bowl cleaner (I can’t get my head around just using vinegar and baking soda on the toilet) for which we need a green solution. So today I went up to Grassroots (because I read that you can get many bulk items there, including cleaning grade vinegar) in an attempt to get more green with my cleaning products.

It’s great! They sell a few different brands and much of it can be purchased in bulk (like the 25% acetic acid vinegar and cleaning grade baking soda) so I picked up some Nature Clean liquid soap, toilet bowl cleaner, and stain remover. I’m fully stocked on vinegar and baking soda but when I’m out, I know where to get it waste-free!

“What are the issues with conventional cleaning products?” you may ask. From cbc.ca:

“Many common household cleaners contain alcohol, ammonia, bleach, formaldehyde and lye, substances that can cause nausea, vomiting, inflammation and burning of the eyes and throat.

Environmentalists have linked these ingredients with neurological, liver and kidney damage, asthma and cancer.”

Then there’s the fact that most of this stuff (especially the bathroom cleanser) ends up in our water…

Nature clean talks a little bit about it here. They’re great because they offer full disclosure of ingredients, while most cleaning products hide behind the “trade secret” cloak.

As for the beer, that’ll have to be another day…

Toronto is going to start charging for garbage pickup in 2008, depending on how much you toss. Our garbage only gets picked up once every two weeks (green bin, which is all of the stinky stuff like all food waste, used tissues, paper towels, paper food packaging, diapers, sanitary products, and animal waste, gets picked up every week) and if you only fill one garbage bag, then you won’t have to pay. We do that now, so we’ll just go with the smallest container.

But my pilates & yoga instructor/neighbour works in waste management, so I asked her if this meant that we would be adding other things to the list of recyclables and she said milk and bread bags (I’m not sure if it’s all plastic bags or just those – I’ll have to clarify) will be recycled. We use a lot of milk every week, and my local grocery stores don’t sell the 4L plastic jugs that you can take back for a deposit, so I’m stuck with bags. I’ve looked into getting glass, but all I could find is Harmony Organic which sells 1L glass bottles for almost $4 a pop. That’s fine if you don’t go through 4-6 litres per week, but… no thanks. (By the way, I don’t know how we go through so much milk… I guess when you cook and bake and my toddler drinks about 300mL/day it all adds up.) Anyway, I’ve decided that I’m going to clean and dry and hang onto all of those plastic bags until the time comes that they can be recycled.

It’s a lot of bags to store, but that just means it’s a lot of bags diverted from the landfill.

So, I’ve had enough of two in diapers, and as they’re cloth, it’s adds up to a lot of laundry, meaning a lot of water, and although I mostly hang them on the line these days, also some dryer usage. Today marks the first official no diaper day (for my 2.5 year old, not the 8 month old). We’ve moved onto undies! This would have come around eventually, I realize, but I’m pushing it up a few months sooner and that’s got to count for something!

2008 note & update: this was a) initiated the our pediatrician because the little guy had a terrible persistent rash and b) a total failure. We had 3 great months and then everything fell apart. My advice to parents: wait until you’re very sure they’re ready.

By the way, I broke in the tiffin boxes last night at The Ghali Kitchen and George (the owner) loved them and was more than happy to oblige me (exclaimed “These are wicked!” and shook my hand as I left). A fantastic waste-free takeout experience.

 

Black GoldI watched a documentary film tonight called Black Gold. It’s about coffee. I love coffee. And I started to buy fair trade coffee a few months ago, not really aware of all of the issues, but aware that there is a problem between the price the farmer gets and the price that we pay. “A problem” doesn’t nearly touch on the magnitude of the issue.

The did a little math in the film, with the coffee farmers in Ethiopia(members of the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union). A cup of coffee sells for $2.90 (USD) on average in the western world. There are about 80 cups of coffee in a kilo. Which puts the price at $230/kilo. And the Ethiopian coffee farmer gets $0.23/kilo. Yeah, that’s right, TWENTY-THREE CENTS. Now, even if you talk about the price of a pound (2.2 lbs in a kg) of coffee that you don’t buy off of a retailer like Starbucks or whomever it is you choose to rip you off (and the coffee growers), it’s still insane. Even if you factor in travel costs and roasting costs, it’s still insane and inhumane and completely unfair. And one of the farmers suggested a price that would “change our lives beyond recognition” – that price: $0.57/kg. He lives with 15 other people under his roof and can’t send his kids or grandkids to school because of poverty. They don’t want to be rich and drive fancy cars and buy iPhones and giant flat screen TVs. They just want to feed their families and put shoes on their feet and send them to school (if they could afford to build a local school).

How did it get to this point? Well, there was talk of the International Coffee Agreement, which fell apart in 1989, leading to the 30 year low coffee price there is now. The coffee price is set by the New York futures market, which doesn’t have the farmers best interests in mind (surprise, surprise). For instance, it costs $0.90/kg to produce coffee in South America and New York pays them $0.63/kg. Wait a minute, they’re LOSING 27 cents for every kilo they produce? Yeah, that’s right. Then there’s the subsidies that western countries give our farmers, while African countries don’t have money to give their farmers subsidies, and therefore they can’t compete. And there’s a shedload of middlemen in the industry, but really, the coffee grower gets 1-3% of the profits, the shippers, exporters and local traders 7%, and the retailers/cafes, roasters and importers 90%.  There’s a good article on coffee at globalexchange.org if you’re interested in reading it. Or see the film. Or do both.

So… it’s fair trade coffee all the way for me now. By the way, great film. I highly recommend it.