a peek inside the fishbowl

07 Apr, 2008

Emma takes on corporate America [now updated]

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Yaktivism

stand up for free trade

[click to enlarge]

I will update this post with more later. I’m rushing today. Chicken. Head. Off.  

It started with an innocent trip to Starbucks. I took the girls and another little friend there for hot chocolate. Bridgehead, our usual destination, was booked solid. So it was Starbucks or nothing.

We got to talking about free trade and what it means. The girls saw people throwing all their cardboard cups in the garbage (this boggles my mind, why don’t they recycle?). The spoons we got with our order were plastic and each one was individually wrapped.

They were really annoyed. By the time we got home they were ready to fire off an email. I discovered My Starbucks Idea and we posted their suggestions there. But really, who knows if anyone is reading it?

They were orgininally going to walk around the neighborhood with a petition (but Mark wasn’t crazy about the idea) so we suggested a poster might work better. The content of the poster (above) was entirely their own.

They brought it to me to photocopy. I sat with them and we did one up on the computer instead. We left Starbucks out of it (Kristina, you’re right, they do ensure a certain percentage of their coffee is fair trade, but not all of it is) and focused instead on free trade as a concept people should be more aware of. I think it’s a good question… do you know where your coffee comes from?

I printed six posters and the girls took off to post them on nearby telephone polls.

I’m quite proud of our little activists.

I wonder where they get that from?

10 Responses to "Emma takes on corporate America [now updated]"

1 | mel

April 7th, 2008 at 12:54 pm


Emma is AWESOME. \(^_^)/

2 | Kristina

April 7th, 2008 at 2:07 pm


Actually, Starbucks is in need of some serious PR. I went to Starbucks University prior to becoming a barrista in Toronto. I was actually quite impressed with Starbucks’ philosophy about purchasing beans. They set the standard for fair trade long before other coffee companies were doing the same. I urge you to read http://tinyurl.com/59lrv3 and Shultz’s book Pour Your Heart Into It. You will find that Starbucks has certainly been given a bad rap that it doesn’t fully deserve.

3 | Jenn

April 8th, 2008 at 12:20 pm


Just out of curiosity, do they have the same feelings about fair trade chocolate?

4 | andrea

April 8th, 2008 at 1:05 pm


They are totally aware of the free trade issue as it pertains to chocolate and cocoa, but it’s not something we’ve really enforced around here.

Baby steps, you know? :)

5 | jenn

April 9th, 2008 at 10:38 am


This is an issue that is of constant frustration to me. Starbucks does so many things that are so good but they just don’t advertise these things as much as they should so hardly anyone knows! They are the largest purchaser of Fair Trade coffee in North America. They are the first and only coffee chain to use 10% post-consumer fibers in their cups (all the cold ones can be recycled.) They are constantly supporting the coffee farmers and their communities in dozens of ways ($, schools, clinics, access to affordable loans…it’s all there in their CSR report, and it’s online!) They are partners with Conservation International and founded CAFE practices (coffe and farmer equity) Beyond the international level, Starbucks is committed to the communities their stores are in and support many local charities and organizations. Around here we keep a community garden where the food is donated, plant trees, clean a green space, and collect books and supplies for under-funded schools, just to name a few!) I went to Bridgehead the last time I was in Ottawa and was impressed by them and ther variety of Fair Trade coffees but I assure you Starbucks purchases thousands of pounds more (always at a higher price than market value, I might add!) The size of the company means they can do great things, and they do!! Maybe they just need better PR, like Kristina said! :)

PS…Emma’s poster is great and I’m proud of them to for wanting to make their world a better place!

6 | andrea

April 9th, 2008 at 11:07 am


What you’ve listed is all good stuff, but they can be doing more especially on a local level. I’m talking about making relatively simple changes that ordinary people can *see* and feel good about.

I mean here’s a question:

– why can’t Starbucks offer in-store recycling? I can’t imagine how many of their (yes, recycled) coffee cups end up in their trash.
– why can’t Starbucks offer people actual washable utensils instead of stir sticks and plastic spoons?

These kinds of things would go a long way to helping their corporate image, don’t you think?

Related: Westboro (where I live – home of a Starbucks and a Bridgehead) totally needs some recycling bins along the main strip. I can’t believe how many coffee cups I see along my walks.

7 | andrea

April 9th, 2008 at 11:08 am


I should also add that Emma agrees that she should only be eating fair trade chocolate. (!)

This is going to be somewhat difficult around Halloween, Easter, and at Nana and Papa’s house. ;)

8 | Marla

April 9th, 2008 at 12:57 pm


I applaud the intent and the action – but want to also caution you to make sure they’re not diminishing their cause too – please think about making sure they’ve checked the postering by-laws too. They may also need to remember to take them down after a period, otherwise they become another problem!

My neighbours laugh at me for removing posters on our street and some of the side streets nearby – but I point out that the posters are illegal, and when they’re not attached properly and begin to degrade, they become unsightly – or litter. That’s just one of my bugaboos.

9 | mel

April 9th, 2008 at 2:30 pm


I appreciate knowing that Starbucks has taken some steps, but I still think that they deserve to be held to a higher standard of accountability as North America’s largest coffee retailer. Although Starbucks may be “the largest purchaser of Fair Trade coffee in North America,” they buy (and sell) millions and millions of pounds of coffee beans that are not fairly traded.

10 | Stereo Mike

April 12th, 2008 at 3:50 am


The best Starbucks idea is NOT TO GO THERE. Freiends do NOT let friends drink’
free trade coffee’ or what ever the Hell they call it. A Pox on ALL those places!

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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