On November 5, voters in Berkeley, California, will find an initiative on their ballot that requires coffee served in the city to be organic, shade grown, or Fair Trade certified. It may sound far-fetched, but so did the citys decision to divest from apartheid South Africa in 1979.
The Fair Trade Federation, which certifies coffee, is a worldwide association of businesses that promotes organic, sustainable environmental practices and living wages for farmers. It reports that in 2001, fair-trade coffee imports to the United States rose more than 50 percent, to 6.7 million pounds, with sales that year in the United States and Canada reaching nearly $100 million. Fairly traded tea is also available in the United States, with cocoa soon to arrive through two companies, Equal Exchange and Deans Beans.
Finally, a reason not to hate cell phones. In the Philippine capital of Manila, an environmental group has teamed up with the government to get the public involved in a crackdown on polluters. Manila ranks among the worlds dirtiest cities, with airborne particle levels of ash and exhaust that are double or triple World Health Organization standards.
One of the main culprits is "smoke belchers"diesel trucks emitting black clouds that aggravate health problems for thousands every year. Upon spotting these offenders, citizens use their phones to type in and send the vehicles license plate number and location to the organization Bantay Usok ("Smokebelchers Watchdog"). After five reports, the Land Transportation Office is informed and it, in turn, sends a summons to the owner. Within the first two months, activists have called in more than 40,000 violations.
Green housing is moving uptown in the Big Apple. A new $40 million residential and retail building in Harlem is set to become the largest affordable, environmentally conscious development in the United States. With units starting at $158,000, two-thirds of the building is reserved for middle-income families normally left out of subsidized housing. Among the amenities that "1400 on Fifth" boasts are geothermal heating and cooling, construction with 60 percent recycled materials, and high indoor-air quality. Its eco-friendly design also qualifies for a New York State tax credit, saving developers up to 7 percent on construction costs and residents an average of $24,000 over five years. Whats more, with up to 70 percent less energy use than buildings of comparable size, the homes utility bills should stay low. Occupancy, based on a lottery, will begin in the fall of 2003.