This last Saturday we watched as our daughter graduated from college and moved on with her life. She was at a small college, so I didn’t hold out much hope for the quality of the commencement speaker, but I was pleasantly surprised. Dressed in all the piles of commencement regalia and standing about 5 feet tall was Dr. Sylvia Earle, the highly regarded oceanographer who is a spokesperson for sustainable harvesting of the oceans fisheries.
The message that was being communicated to the grads was not only focused on preservation of the oceans, but also the responsibility of these emergent world citizens to make a difference in their world, whether that is global in reach, or simply in their own yard. The message was that they should all do the right thing regardless of where they are planted.
The message for us in the coffee industry is a little more complicated but still essentially the same. In our global business, we are faced with questions of sustainability on the farms, the impact of global climate change on the future, sustainable business practices in our businesses, ecological and ideological choices in energy, serving and production products, corporate culture, and community responsibility.
How we approach those choices defines us as an industry and a community. The idea that we are no longer responsible just for our own business, but share responsibility, and accountability, for sustainable business practices and ethical sourcing with our partners around the world is a rapidly growing and welcome development.
Specialty coffee is a very small community and very interdependent. All of our long-term success depends on our mutual cooperation. Whether a single espresso cart owner or a CEO of a vast international corporation, we all can find ways to strengthen our mutual bonds to the earth and the folks who walk upon it.
As you read this, pause a moment to consider what you can do to make a difference. Can you place an extra trash bin out to collect compostable cups? Maybe a few hundred if you operate a chain? Just about every town now has a community composting center and small business that run around collecting compostables – if not, start one! It would be a great business for your teenager! Hold a local event to build water projects in a village (I love what Portland Roasting does with their water event), in other words, do something, turn the dial a little today, make a difference.
And speaking of making a difference, CoffeeTalk publishes it’s annual Making a Difference e-zine in July. Be sure to watch for the notice in your e-mail. Read about what others are doing and how you can get involved.