Several small actions lead to bigger change

Becky Adams

I often tend to think the only way (or primary way) to make good change in this world happens through a series of grand gestures; i.e. giving large sums of money to charity, courageously putting my life on the line for a good cause, giving Martin Luther King Jr.-esque speeches, writing books, igniting revolutions, etc.

It has become apparent to me that those who seem to make the most waves in this world aren’t the ones who simply heave large stones into the pond every so often, but the ones who consistently toss in small ones, just skipping along the surface.

They see the potential of small actions for big change.

They see revolution in a coffee cup.

When we take what we value seriously, nothing in our lives should be safe. Even the small decision of what coffee we drink becomes an opportunity to cultivate these values in the world around us.

What do you value?

Is it fairness, freedom, preservation of the environment, equality, education or justice for the poor?

If any of these strike a chord, you’re the perfect candidate for drinking fair trade coffee.

A decision to buy fair trade certified coffee reflects these values. Why?

At its core, fair trade coffee means a fair wage for coffee farmers.

In this alternative economic model, there are fewer middle men. Less people eating from the money pie means a better, fairer wage for the farmer. It’s not a handout. It simply allows farmers to receive what they’re due, and this in turn makes a profound difference in the lives of millions of families around the world.

Simple, huh? At first glance it’s hard to believe what an impact this beverage preference makes. It becomes clearer once you learn that coffee is the second-most heavily traded commodity after oil. Annually speaking, it’s a $5 dollar business industry (

Your simple action helps combat malnutrition and starvation, secure the jobs of coffee farmers (they’ll be less tempted to give up their coffee crops in favor of more profitable drug crops), stomp out child labor and slavery and build sustainable communities. It also gives families better health care and educational opportunities and promotes preservation of the environment.

Businesses with fair trade certification must comply with certain fair labor conditions and environmental standards that make these changes possible.

The push for fair trade products, such as coffee, is gaining momentum in the United States, especially on college campuses. Kent State is among the more than 200 universities with student groups currently operating a fair trade campaign.

A student group called Campus Advocacy for a Fair Trade Environment (CAFE) formed at Kent State about a year ago. They’re currently working to persuade Dining Services to serve 100 percent fair trade coffee at all service locations. But before the university will make the move they need something — to hear your voices.

It’s one good thing to begin buying fair trade coffee on a personal level. You’re making ripples. This, however, is an opportunity for structural change that is reflective of values consistent with the ideas of fairness and justice for our unseen neighbors. Imagine the ripples then.

Your help is needed. You can sign CAFE’s petition, convince your student group to sign a letter of support, or fill out comment cards at all Dining Services locations requesting 100 percent fair trade coffee from a 100 percent fair trade company.

Remember, when we neglect to see the potential of small actions, we cheat ourselves of the opportunity to change the world in big ways.

The above column was submitted on behalf of CAFE and was written by Becky Adams, a senior magazine journalism major.