You Don't Have to Only Drink Overflow Coffee

But please, please, please drink direct trade!

Two new direct trade offerings are available for the South Loop.
  • Spoke and Bird opened this year (yay for being locally owed and operated!).  
  • La Haven will open soon.
We couldn't be more excited that there's more ethical coffee being served in the South Loop.  There's a couple restaurants that also use direct trade coffee.  We can't mention them all (ask your waitstaff at your favorite places).

Obviously, we still think we're the best.  No offense to the others.  :-)

If you're reading this and live outside the South Loop, come visit!

  • There are lots of coffee and food options for brunch, dinner, date night, get togethers, etc.  
  • Visit a museum.  
  • Take a pit stop on the way to a White Sox game.
  • Visit one of our many parks.

A Journey Into Ethical Economics

written by Amanda Neely*

We are all consumers. We have to eat, drink, and be clothed. We can't stop consuming unless we want to go totally off the grid and survive off our own homestead (if that's what you want to do, more power to you!).

I was exposed to Fair Trade in college and have spent all my adult years trying to figure out how to make more and more of my consumption ethical.  It's been hard.  I'm not totally there yet.  But it's been totally worth it.

My journey started in college.  I actually wanted to major in economics when I arrived my first year.  I had gone to econ camp in high school and loved what I learned about supply and demand and such.  But when I met upperclassmen who were majoring in econ, I realized that path wasn't for me.  I cared a lot about people and wanted to make decisions in my life based on how they affect real people, not based on logic, science or economic theory.  In case you're wondering, I ended up studying psychology and minoring in music but took as many social science classes as I could. 

There is no single moment I can point to when I started thinking about ethical economics but several smaller circumstances that added up (you'll see this pattern again before we're done).
  • My university served fair trade coffee in our cafeterias so my first cups of coffee to stay awake when my first finals approached were fair trade.  
  • One of my professors added Fast Food Nation to our syllabus and I learned about how inhumanely animals and humans are treated in our fast food system.  
  • I took a class my last quarter called "Love in the Time of Capitalism" and learned how our evolving economics have transformed our relationships - marriages, families, friendships, all of them.  
In short, during college, my mind and my emotions were awakened to how our economic system works and its flaws. 

Then, I took that giant leap into the real world.  Like most recent college grads, I didn't have a lot of money so I was faced with the challenge of continuing my ethical economics journey without being able to spend a lot for products that actually paid people well and took care of the planet. 

In the almost 10 years that have passed since, I learned quite a bit about what I can do.  Here are two examples:
  1. I might not be able to buy fair labor clothing all the time but I can always afford thrift stores.  Thrift stores are not adding to the slavery system that produces many of the clothes we wear.  Plus, there's an added environmental impact of reusing materials so that no new materials need to be produced. 
  2. I couldn't necessarily afford to buy all my food locally and certified organic but switched my milk and eggs.  When I'm able, I buy other items locally and certified organic but these two products have been any easy switch and are probably making a significant contribution to my overall health, not to mention the health of farmers, cattle, chickens, and our ecosystem. 

Most significantly, this journey has led me to start a coffee shop that promotes ethical economics.  We go beyond fair trade to offer direct trade coffee, tea, and chocolate.  Our baker uses local, non-GMO ingredients.  We have a gift shop with fair trade artisan products from around the world.  Plus, we improve our entire product sourcing as we're able.

I've also learned some related principles. 

First, it is not just about switching my purchasing habits to more ethical products but also about buying less.  For example, it's virtually impossible to produce smart phones and other technology without using slave labor.  There's a particular mineral needed, 90% of which comes from slavery conditions.  So, I have learned to only upgrade my technology as needed.  I don't need the latest and greatest cell phone.  I can wait until my current phone breaks before purchasing something new.  It's not that big of a sacrifice and it actually helps me feel better about my actions.

I've also learned that I can't just spread this awareness or consciousness about the impact of consumption on the planet and the people who live here.  Along with rising consciousness, I need to help people take action. When people are aware of issues but don't have something tangible to do to correct that injustice, I have noticed that they become jaded and cynical to the issue.  They lose their sense of empathy and compassion for those most affected by injustice.  Yet, I believe and have witnessed that when people have something tangible to do, however small, we do it and trust that we are making a difference.

Trust is a big related principle too.  This whole concept of ethical economics takes a lot of trust.  I need to trust that my small actions aren't just a drip in a huge bucket that never gets full.  I need to trust that others are also dripping into this same bucket by their small actions and thereby making it much more likely that our positive dripping will amount to a bucket full of positivity that overflows with positive results to the entire world.  Just like those small circumstances in college made a difference in my life, I trust that my small positive actions, along with others around the world doing similar things, positively transform the future.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere.  I would spin that into a positive, ethical economics anywhere add up to change the economic system everywhere.

*This is an opinion piece and only reflects the current views of the writer.  It does not reflect the views of Daystar School, Daystar Center, Overflow Coffee Bar, their employees, or their leadership.  The writer acknowledges that her views might change over time and welcomes you to communicate your thoughts about ethical economics to her so that her views are enriched by your own.
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