Former Starbucks barista petitions for Fair Trade

Did you know that October is National Fair Trade month? Whether you did or didn’t, what is Fair Trade and why does it matter if Starbucks serves more Fair Trade certified coffee?

Sam Greenblat, a former Starbucks barista, recently started a petition on that is aimed to coerce the caffeine colossus that is Starbucks to offer more Fair Trade options in its United States stores.

But what is Fair Trade?

Fair Trade USA says,

Fair Trade goods are just that. Fair. From far-away farms to your shopping cart, products that bear our logo come from farmers and workers who are justly compensated. We help farmers in developing countries build sustainable businesses that positively influence their communities. We’re a nonprofit, but we don’t do charity. Instead, we teach disadvantaged communities how to use the free market to their advantage. With Fair Trade USA, the money you spend on day-to-day goods can improve an entire community’s day-to-day lives.

Here’s a video of how the Fair Trade program realistically plays out:

Sure, the Fair Trade Certification has its criticisms, but where you come down on that argument is for each person to choose for themselves…but I’d love to hear where YOU come down on it.

Why should Starbucks care about Fair Trade Certified Coffee?

Greenblat’s petition letter references the policy of Starbucks stores in the UK. He says,

In the UK, 100% of coffee and espresso served in Starbucks is Fair Trade certified. But in the U.S., even getting a single cup of Fair Trade coffee from Starbucks can be a challenge. That’s because the largest coffee chain in the U.S., doesn’t offer a brewed Fair Trade choice in its American stores every day. And when they do offer a Fair Trade option, its often poorly advertised as such.

The letter ends in what I see as somewhat harsh verbiage, which reads, “It’s time Starbucks upped their commitment to Fair Trade coffee by offering a brewed Fair Trade choice in their U.S. stores every day.”

Hey, I’m all for more options, but Starbucks is already doing A LOT right on environmental and other societal levels as well.

Just what good is Starbucks doing…short of Fair Trade?

On an environmental level:

  • develop more environmentally friendly cups
  • encourage the use of your own mugs and tumblers by giving a $.10 discount
  • use water-saving appliances (such as dishwashers) and water-saving settings on espresso machines
  • Installing cabinetry made from 90% post-industrial material (where available), with no added formaldehyde
  • Improving lighting efficiency
  • Using recycled flooring tiles
  • Using wood products that are Forest Stewardship Council–certified (where available)
  • Using paints with lower amounts of volatile organic chemicals
  • and much more.

Starbucks doesn’t stop at trying to make their corporate and retail operations greener and more efficient, they also have programs in place to have a positive impact on communities (both domestic and abroad), ethical sourcing (even it’s not predominantly “Fair Trade Certified” products), and even takes efforts to benefit the overall wellness of its patrons and employees.

Sure, a sugary, fatty, calorie-heavy 20-ounce frappucino isn’t going to help improve your overall health and wellness, but there’s room for everything in moderation eh? Of course you can always make your own healthier, cheaper, and just as tasty version of a Starbucks frappucino.

Starbucks Fair Trade Certified coffee

Below is the press release I received earlier about this petition. What do you think about it?

WASHINGTON, DC – More than 17,000 people have joined an explosive campaign on calling on Starbucks to sell at least one brewed fair trade coffee option in each U.S. store every day of October, which is National Fair Trade Month.

Greenblatt, a former Starbucks barista and coffee enthusiast, launched the online petition campaign on after learning that European Starbucks stores offer 100% fair trade-certified coffee and espresso to customers.

“When I worked as a barista for Starbucks, I admired the company’s commitment to treat employees and customers with fairness and respect,” said Greenblatt, who worked at a Starbucks store in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2006 and 2007. “It’s time for Starbucks to expand that commitment to the farmers who grow Starbucks coffee by offering at least one daily brewed fair trade coffee option in their U.S. stores.”

News of the campaign’s success is likely to increase pressure on Starbucks. In just a fews days, thousands of people have joined the campaign, and Greenblatt says he hopes the thousands of signatures from Starbucks customers in the U.S. will prove to the company that Americans want the fair trade-certified choices European customers have.

“Sam has done an impressive job organizing thousands of supporters around an issue he cares deeply about,” said Amanda Kloer, Director of Organizing for, the world’s fastest-growing platform for social change. “As a former Starbucks barista, he’s in a unique position to call for change within the company. is about empowering people to fight for the issues that matter to them, and it’s been incredible watching Sam’s campaign take off.”

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About Jeffrey Davis

Yo, I'm Jeffrey, founder of and editor in chief here at Eco-Snobbery Sucks. I live in Nashville, TN and am a writer, personal trainer, web designer, and wookie hugger. I hang out on Twitter some but you can find me more active on Facebook. Enjoy the site!

  • TheRiverWanders

    I don’t buy from Starbucks because of their political sponsorships; everything that CAN be certified Fair Trade SHOULD be – like organic – when we know better, we do better.  I’m tired of promoting slavery and sweatshops in other countries when I spend money here.

  • Lisa

    I wish Starbucks would have Fair Trade coffee not because I support them but because it could make a huge impact. I can’t seem to get any Starbucks to use my reusable mugs without also using a disposable cup-

    So I refuse to go there and I would rather go to local shops but with the numbers of people they serve it would really make a big impact for Fair Trade.

  • Marni

    I’m a barista at Starbucks. Part of what I love about the company is their integrity. While our coffee is not Fair Trade CERTIFIED (and certification is really the sticking point here.) We ethically source about our 90% of our coffee and we’re working on making that number 100%. Ethically sourced means that we pay living wages for our coffee, and the farmers have to provide living wages for their workers. We also give back to the coffee communities. We have helped with educating farmers on environmentally friendly farming and using sustainable practices. We have helped build schools and medical clinics in many communities so that the families of the farms can have medical attention and education. Fair trade certification takes money, not just for Starbucks, but also for the farms, which is why it can be hard to offer the amount of fair trade certified coffee to caffeinate the US (It’s quite a bit more coffee than what the UK needs.) 

    @Lisa, I’m sorry you had a bad experience. That is not corporate policy. I’m sure mistakes happen, when you have 6000 US company operated stores and 4000 US licensed stores, every once in a while you get a mistaken person or store. But rest assured, corporate policy (and the only thing I’ve ever seen done in 25+ stores in which I’ve worked) is to make drinks in the reusable cups. And there is no reason anyone should ever put a hot drink in a plastic cup. That is absolutely against policy. Hot drinks should always be made in paper cups. I’m not trying to convince you to “come back” to Starbucks since you sound happy at your local shop, but I wanted you to know that this isn’t what is supposed to be happening, and I don’t think it does in the majority of cases.