University News

Western Illinois Student Group Offers Fair Trade Coffee

March 17, 2008

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MACOMB, IL - - Western Illinois University's Anthropology and Sociology Club (WASC) wanted to find a way to address social issues and support this year's University Theme: "Global Challenges and Personal Responsibility: Environmental Sustainability."

That's when Jessica White, a visiting assistant professor of sociology and faculty adviser for WASC, told the students about her research on fair trade coffee; and they were hooked.

Western's WASC is selling fair trade coffee from around the world not only to raise awareness of its role in environmental sustainability issues and social concerns, but also to help to fund a new graduating senior scholarship at Western.

"Fair trade is a movement that began in the middle of the 20th century when charity groups began to sell items to North America," White said. "The idea was to support people in need through a grass roots consumer movement. Now it is a system that allows workers in the supply chain to receive fair wages while helping to preserve the environment."

Local cooperatives in independent regions use traditional farming and organic farming methods to produce shade-grown coffee, which is matured on the forest floor. This prevents the clear cutting of forests, conserves the habitats of the forest plants and animals and promotes environmental sustainability. Because of shade-grown coffee, there has been a resurgence of endangered primates and birds, explained White, whose research interests often focus on primate ecology, behavior and evolution.

Much of the money raised by producers goes back into the community toward funding adult education, opening new schools, raising social issue awareness or for developing the economy, she added.

"The students in WASC want to be a resource for information about these important environmental and social issues," White said.

"It is as much about awareness as it is about fundraising. The point is not to convince consumers to stop buying certain items, but to harness consumer power and get people to think about who is on the other end of producing the goods they purchase," she added.

According to the fair trade campaign and coffee information on the WASC website at, "WASC supports the aim of Fair Trade to offer fair prices and wages for laborers around the world, educational opportunities, democracy in the workplace, gender equality, environmental sustainability and promoting a stronger voice for individuals involved in all stages of the marketing process."

In support of fair trade and as part of the ongoing fundraising campaign, WASC is selling four blends of fairly traded, shade-grown organic coffees from Just Coffee Co-Op in Madison, WI. The coffee is freshly roasted before the sale. Available blends include: "Rocket Fuel Blend," a French roast grown by the members of the Dominican Republic FEDECARES coffee cooperative; "Sustain Your Day Blend," a dark roast grown by the members of the Peruvian Pangoa coffee cooperative; "One World Blend," a medium roast grown by members of the Guatemalan Santa Anita coffee cooperative; and "Relax (A Bit) Blend," a half-caf blend of dark Bolivian and Peruvian caffeinated coffees. Cost is $8 per 12-ounce bag, plus shipping.

To order coffee, or for more information, e-mail White at

WASC is comprised of approximately 15 undergraduate and graduate students and two faculty advisers and is open to students of any major. The group sponsors speakers and events relating to diversity issues, culture, sustainability and environmental awareness and the social side of education, medicine, politics and many other subjects. Money raised funds the club, as well as a graduating senior scholarship fund awarded each semester to sociology and anthropology students.

Posted By: Alisha Looney (
Office of University Communications & Marketing