July 1, 2007

organic coffee trick

While shopping at Whole Foods recently I spotted this cool coffee package. Not only is the coffee itself a eco-friendly choice, but the packaging is as well. I'm always a sucker for a pretty package (and I needed coffee anyway).

The package seemed completely compostable, with no glues or plastic linings whatsoever. The package said, "the package material was made from handmade paper produced by EARTH's University and Jireh from banana stems and recycled paper. Jireh is a two woman micro-enterprise located in one of the rural communities bordering EARTH's campus. EARTH university is dedicated to advanced education and sustainable agriculture in the tropics."

Yes, I know coffee has to be shipped a tremendous distance and that does not make it "local." However, I love, love, love drinking coffee and think that would be hard to give up. If you are like me and are determined to keep drinking coffee no matter how many healthy people say you shouldn't, the best option is to buy fair-trade, organic coffee which is shade grown. This particluar pacakge of coffee contains Allegro's first Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee, which means it was processed using environmentally sustainable growing practices and safe labor conditions.

Now if that isn't a feel-good way to start your day, I don't know what is. But here's where my story takes its turn.

The next morning I opened up my cool coffee package and inside the pretty, handmade, compostable paper bag there was a typical plastic coffee bag containing the coffee grounds! LAME!

Not only does that seem incedibly decipetful to me, it is so wasteful. In addtion to the typical bag they have added the banana paper sack and the paper band (printed 4 colors, mind you) and a metal clasp. What a huge addition of waste and energy!

I feel like such a sucker for falling for it. I really had thought it was a clever, original packaging idea. You can bet I'm going to send a letter to Allegro letting them know how dissapointed I am with their marketing trick. Just goes to show that all this 'going green' stuff is never black and white.


Debbie said...

I don't blame you for being disappointed about that coffee package! But good job looking for the organic and fair trade stuff. I don't want to give up my coffee either, and at least buying fair trade means someone benefits from it who needs to.


Gift of Green said...

Grrrrrrrr....! What's up with that!? I'm letting Big Green Purse know about your post. HA!

P.S. I love you, coffee.

Anonymous said...


I'm Kerry from The Sustainable Scoop". I totally hear what you're saying about the packaging, it looks like the outside bag is all there is to it. however, I was fortunate enough to go on a trip to Costa Rica with the Allegro folks, and I learned that the reason why they had to include their normal bag inside has to do with shipping and distribution. The outside bags made at EARTH University were handmade by a group of local women, in a project put together by an EARTH employee. I met these women, and by making these bags they were able to make a good wage, helping to support their families. Other companies are now also interested in the various things they can make, so I think the addition of these paper bags is a good thing.

Also, the bags were made from banana waste fiber from EARTH University's student banana project, whose delicious bananas can be bought at Whole Foods nationwide. This waste was previously discarded, but the project with these women has inspired the university to build a paper plant specifically dedicated to making banana fiber paper in varying grades.

Like I said, I understand your feeling at buying this bag with certain expectations. I wish that Allegro had made the contents more clear, and I also wish they had done a better job of featuring the group of women, who are truly entrepreneurs. Still, I think that what Allegro did by allowing this project in the first place was bold, since they placed a large order and paid the women far more than "fair trade". Hopefully you can overcome your disappointment as a consumer to appreciate the project for its value.

If you're at all interested in the women or the trip I took, I blogged about it for a week. Here's the link: My Week in Costa Rica