Think Outside the Bottle

September 7, 2008
Pledge to Break the Bottled Water Habit.

Pledge to Break the Bottled Water Habit.

Posted by Chris O’Brien

In the past decade, bottled water has become a convenience most Americans have come to take for granted. Homebrewers often use it in place of water from the tap. Likewise, coffee connoisseurs are reaching for the bottled stuff in attempts to brew great coffee at home.

Fact is, water is the biggest ingredient in both beer and coffee, so it makes sense to pay attention to its quality. But did you know that roughly half of bottled water is just tap water put in a bottle? And furthermore, that the health and safety regulations governing tap water are far more effective than those in place for bottled water – bottled water often is untested whereas there are free annual water quality reports available for all municipal tap water systems?

What’s more is that bottled water is an astounding 750-2,700 times more expensive than tap water.

Take a look at the new, free Responsible Purchasing Guide to Bottled Water Alternatives. Then take the Center for a New American Dream’s Pledge to Break the Bottled Water Habit.


Starbucks: Fair Trade or “Tradewash”?

August 1, 2008

Posted by Chris O’Brien

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is telling consumers to turn up the heat on Starbucks and pressure them to take Fair Trade more seriously.

According to OCA, many customers mistakenly assume that all Starbucks coffee is fair traded, but in fact just 6% of the company’s coffee is certified Fair Trade.

OCA is asks consumer activists to take these steps:

1) Sign OCA’s 2008 petition to Starbucks demanding that all espresso drinks be both 100% certified Organic and Fair Trade.

2) Make a free call to Starbucks’ Customer Service line and let them know how you feel. (800) 235-2883. Click here for a sample script.

3) Sound off on My Starbucks Idea, Starbucks’ public forum. We have an idea for you Starbucks, its called Fair Trade!

4) Find a non-corporate café near you using the Delocator.

Is the “all Fair Trade espresso” demand impractical or too idealistic? Not really. Dunkin’ Donuts, the world’s largest coffee and baked goods retailer, already does just that. Even McDonald’s sells all Fair Trade coffee in their New England stores and in the U.K.

So what’s up Starbucks? Why not empower farmers by supporting a minimum price per pound and buying from democratic cooperatives?


Bean Activist Talks Fair Trade on KPFT

July 18, 2008
KPFT

KPFT

Tune in next Tuesday, Noon to 1pm Central time, to the Open Journal on Houston’s Pacifica radio affiliate KPFT when host Tim O’Brien (that’s my bro) interviews Chris O’Brien (that’s me) about responsible purchasing, fair trade, and sweatfree apparel.

Tim has been waging a fair trade coffee campaign and a sweatfree apparel campaign on campus at the University of Houston. See these previous posts about the campaing and check out the websites of UH Students Against Sweatshops and UH United Students for Fair Trade.


USFT Campaigns for Fair Trade at University of Houston

June 18, 2008

Posted by Chris O’Brien

My brother, Tim O’Brien, is at it again on campus at the University of Houston. He’s been waging a campaign to get the school to convert to fair trade ever since he started a chapter of United Students for Fair Trade there about two years ago.

USFT Universoty of Houston protest

Tim first tried the conventional channels – he got himself elected to the student government where he succeeded in passing a resolution calling for fair trade coffee on campus. Then he worked through the administration and the dining services company, Aramark, and managed to get some commitments and a minimum level of fair trade offerings made available on campus.

But these nominal successes were not enough – why accept a few token sides of chips and dip instead of going for the whole enchilada? So in recent months he’s taken the campaign to the next level by conducting attention-getting direct action events like the one he pulled off yesterday. He rallied a crew of about 20 students and delivered a giant papier mache coffee bean to University Chancellor Renu Khator’s office. Khator was out of the office but the police were called in anyway to hustle those pesky students away – and their giant coffee bean too!

Read the whole story in today’s Houston Chronicle.