Moving towards a sustainable coffee culture at Brown University.

Permalink This sticker uses historical significance of local coffee house culture to get people to drink local. 

Viral Sticker Campaign: Appealing to our Visual Culture

We decided to do a sticker campaign to spread awareness about eco-firendly coffee choices.  Sticker campaigns are effective because they are artistic, visually appealing, and easy to mass produce and distribute cheaply. RISD grad, and digital design icon, Shepard Fairey wins the award for a wild-fire sticker campaign.


Look familiar?  OBEY stickers reference the cult film, and are propogating anti-consumerism ideology. These stickers began in the 1980s and you can still find them, 20 years later,  sprinkled in all major urban cities.
As miniature art pieces, stickers can accessorize laptops and coffee sleeves, adorn notebooks and journals, dress up stop signs and public bus stops and lonely looking walls. They can be traveling advertisements or static ones, made available to passer.  As such we aimed to make emotionally resonant images that educate the public about environmental impacts of coffee choices and will stick (pun intended) in the minds of readers when they buy their daily brew.
Our stickers come in 3 varieties:
1. Starbucks Defamation: Designed to illustrate the political, social, and environmentally irresponsible practices of  Starbucks corporation. These stickers borrow images from globally iconic graffiti artist, Banksy
2. Local Coffeehouse Culture: 
3. Sustainable Awareness:

Post Script on Eco-Friendly Stickers

Although our budget did not allow for us to purchase recyclable sticker paper and soy or coffee inks, it is possible (and encouraged!) to print Green Stickers that take advantage of environmentally sustainable technologies, processes and materials.

Permalink As another part of our green campaign, we designed stickers to be stuck on coffee cups and coffee cup sleeves.  We made these available at the Blue Room, where students could help themselves to a sticker.  This was just another way for us to create greater awareness about the coffee concerns that exist. 

A Recipe for Change

The ABC’s of Applied Behavior Change

Behavior scientists cite many determinants to induce behavior change. We have identified four main determinants that we (and others!) can apply in our green marketing campaign.


  1. Attitudes: My sorting of my trash will make no difference to the planet.
  2. Spatial Barriers: I can’t find the recycling container
  3. Knowledge: I don’t know if I can recycle this plastic container or not.
  4. Consequences: When I put recyclables in the recycling program then I don’t get the money from them.

Our campaign focuses on changing attitudes, knowledge and consequences. Because of the medium of a sticker campaign we cannot influence spacial barriers. Rather we believe that through influencing attitudes and knowledge we can impact the people’s perceptions of the consequences of their choices. The consequences might not be tangible such as a monetary reward, but through our sticker campaign we can help them visualize the positive benefits of Drinking Local and thereby help impact the Environment


Surveying Coffee Consumption @ Brown

We’ve done some background research about Coffee production from Blue State and Starbucks. However, we decided that to make any meaningful contribution to greening Brown’s coffee habits we needed to understand what factors influence students purchasing choices - why does someone choose Starbucks over Bluestate? We developed 10 question survey and distributed it throughout our social networks at Brown via Facebook, Morning Mail, ListServs and Classes. You can find (an fill out!) our survey here. (IMPUT)

We got over 500 respondents! Most of them were undergraduates ages 17-21, the majority of whom were female(%) and from many of whom were from suburban regions(%). More than half of the students have never taken and Environmental Studies course. 

The Findings

  • Most people (81%) purchase coffee/tea from Starbucks about once per month. (see below)
  • Most are unsure weather their cups are recyclable or not. (see below)

  • We also found that 66% of students purchase coffee/tea from blue state, but only a few times per year. 
  • Blue state coffee drinkers are also unsure weather their cups are recyclable or not. (see below)


  • When purchasing coffee, most Brown students consider these as moderately to very important: price, location, convenience, taste, reputation/branding, recommendation by friends, and social justice 
  • However, we were disappointed to see that most students (30%) said that sustainability is of very little importance/moderately important. (see below)

  • In terms of cups and recycling we found that more than half, 57% of students sometimes recycle coffee cups, and less than half, 46% sometimes bring reusable mugs. This is compared to the 44% who never bring a reusable mug. 
  • 33% of people somewhat agree that eco friendly products are too expensive, but 36% disagree that environmental issues are not a priority for them. 
  • On the other hand, 35% of students somewhat agreed that they are not sufficiently informed about the actual environmental impact of products. (see below)

  • Most people (52%) disagree that eco friendly products are of a lower quality. 
  • Most (26%) also somewhat disagree that it is not easy or convenient to find eco-friendly products. 
  • Students were neutral on weather they trust the environmental claim of the product (29%). (see below)

  • Most students would like to know about the environmental impacts of their tea/coffee. (see below)

So What? 

Our survey confirmed our suspicions that many people LACK information about environmental impact of coffee and would like to learn more. Therefore the educational component of our campaign will be key. Furthermore, most students indicated that they buy from Starbucks. We will use this information to try to convert Starbucks drinkers to Local drinkers, which will have positive implications for the environment. 

Permalink As part of our project, we used “Ratty Slipping” as a form of green campaign to educate our students with a few facts and figures that they might not have known about when it comes to Starbucks, Blue State and coffee at Brown.
We designed the cover of the handout, chose what facts we were going to put on the back of our handout, and then distributed them at the Blue Room, the SciLi lobby, and next to various coffee kiosks including at the Rock, the V-Dub and Barus & Holley.  
Consequently, we had increased trafficking on our blog, which was a good sign that students had taken notice of our Ratty slips.  

Sustainable Coffee Technologies

Billions of people drink coffee everyday - some multiple times a day. Coffee, and caffeinated beverages, have been around since ancient times. Its unlikely that coffee is going away anytime soon. But new sustainable coffee technologies and innovative uses for grinds are springing up as the industry is eager to implement a Cradle-to-Cradle usage ideology. 

Coffee = Ink

Coffee Grind Printer  is a new technology that employs used coffee grounds as printer ink! A major advantage is that this will use very little electricity. Also, takes advantage of a household item that is usually wasted and replaces our need to buy a costly and environmentally hazardous ink cartridge. This printer can even work using tea dregs! Overall, this is a cheaper, more sustainable use for your ground coffee.

Solar Powered Coffee Roasters

Check out another sustainable coffee initiative! its a new coffee drying technique that harnesses the sun’s energy. Two partners at the University of Massachusetts created a hybrid dryer that converts coffee parchment and discarded husks from the coffee bean into biomass fuel pellets. The dryers burn the pellets and combine that carbon-neutral energy with heat from solar panels to dry beans just plucked from the trees. The result is better coffee that is less expense for the farmer. 


Brown Students like Black Coffee? (On Campus Interviews)

Here at Brown, students have access to a variety of street side coffee stores on College Hill. We have Starbucks and Blue State on Thayer, Coffee Exchange on Wickendon and of course Brown’s very own Blue Room Brews. To get to know what exactly Brown students think of their coffee, we’ve interviewed a few students around campus.

Phil ‘13 prefers homemade coffee from a coffee machine to in-store coffee.

·       Team Caffiend: Where do you get your coffee from? And how many cups would you say you have a day?

·       Phil: My buddy has a coffee machine.  I’d say I drink two cups of coffee a day.

·       Team Caffiend: What kind of coffee do you usually have?

·       Phil: Black…yea, black.

·       Team Caffiend: Apart from your friend’s coffee machine, do you ever go to coffee shops like Starbucks or Blue State?

·       Phil: I do sometimes. I prefer Blue State to Starbucks.

·       Team Caffiend: Why do you prefer Blue State?

·       Phil: I like that they’re independent. They’re nicer there too, in terms of Customer service.  It’s also more spacious there and the atmosphere is nicer.

·       Team Caffiend: Do you take your coffee away in a paper cup at Blue State?

·       Phil: I get the mug, so that I can drink it in the store.

·       Team Caffiend: Did you know that Strabucks coffee cups are not recycle?

·       Phil: Nope.


Brown Students like Black Coffee? (On Campus Interview # 3)

A Note from Elaine Hsiang ‘15:

"The first time I really "had" coffee was probably pretty late in my life—for the longest time, I hated coffee because it was so bitter, but I started drinking it around sophomore year of high school, I think. My mom introduced me to coffee (she is a huge drinker).

I go to Starbucks most often for coffee. I’m a gold card member! I’m also visit Blue State sometimes. My favorite drink right now would probably be the mocha. If you want to get a bit more specific, soy peppermint mocha, no whip cream.  I love Starbucks, but I personally think it’s a bit overrated (and overpriced). I love fair trade coffee. It’s how coffee should be done. As for Blue State, they have the best mocha, hands down…and getting your drink with soy comes at no extra charge (plus the Baristas like to dance while making your drink so it’s perfection)!   I’m not really sure where Starbucks coffee comes from, but I know they use beans from many places (sorry vague answer). For Blue State, the cocoa beans come from Ghana! But that’s as far as I know.

I had my first real shot of espresso at Blue State. To be honest, even though I drink a ton of coffee, I’m not really familiar with all the different types…so when I visited Blue State one day I was like, “I think I’ll get an espresso!” and I’d thought it meant a drink with a shot of espresso…not like a shot of espresso in a tiny paper cup (I know I’m dumb). It was so, so, so, so, so bitter. But it did the trick. 

- Elaine is interested in Biology and like creative writing in her spare time. 



What is Fairtrade Anyway?

Have your coffee decisions ever been influenced by whether your coffee wields the Fairtrade logo? In stores, we see a variety of coffee products with Fairtrade logos, assurances and advertisments stamped on to the packaging, or local coffee shop chalk boards promising FairTrade. Yet few of us can articulate what “Fairtrade” really means.

At face value, it’s simply this idea that by buying Fairtrade products ensures consumers that the farmers who have produced your coffee(local or abroad) are not exploited by inhumane labour practices and are paid a fair wage to enable decent living conditions.  But Fairtrade isn’t only about fair price.  Enabling communities to improve their lives through “sustainable development and community empowerment” is another key goal of Fairtrade implementation.  Fairtrade looks towards the long-term impacts and visions of a business instead of just short term profits, this can also include environment impacts and sutainablity.


The Fairtrade Logo 

In order for a product to be certified fair trade, it must satisfy a certain number of minimum requirements.  These include:

1.       Fair Working Conditions: Wages improved, a minimum wage is sometimes introduced, workers have a voice in the workplace, workers are trained and taught about what fair trade means.

2.       Ensuring the rights of children: No child labour or child trafficking.

3.       Ensuring there is no information failure within the trading chain: This simply means information about the entire trading chain is shared so that both producers and consumers are well aware of how their products are produced and sold (information can usually be found on product’s webpage)

4.       Environmental Standards: Achieved through sustainable development (definition: meeting today’s needs without compromising future generations), to reuse, reduce, recycle, and implement sustainable practices throughout entire chain.

5.       Respecting local culture: Making sure the cultural heritage of where the product is produced is not harmed, altered, or westernised.

Some Fair-trade Logos You Might Recognize 

There are two main logos that you might recognize (by the way, do realise that fair-trade is very different to logos representing organic foods):

·   Firstly, we have the Fair Trade USA logo that’s used in the U.S. Check out their website, if you’ve never come across it before! Some products you might be familiar with that bear this sign include: Ben & Jerry’s (fully fair trade by 2013), chocolates from Whole Foods Market, and Twining’s tea

Secondly, we’ve got The FAIRTRADE Mark (Fairtrade International).  Like the Fair Trade USA logo, the FAIRTRADE Mark carries out similar practices and represents Fairtrade in terms of international perspectives, despite that it was originally launched in the UK.

FairTrade Inc.: A Corporate Trend 

In 2009, Cadbury Dairy Milk announced to the public that their chocolate would fully incorporate the fair trade practices.  Their Fairtrade launch came with an advertisement that some deemed controversial, but was incredibly popular and successful in getting their new message across

Other large companies you might know include Nestle’s Kit Kat that converted to the FairTrade religion in 2009 and more senior members, The Body Shop, converts since 1989.

FairTraded Beans

Now that we know a little more about what Fairtrade really means, we can look at how Fairtrade relates to coffee.  This I hope to explore in an upcoming blog. ADD MORE, SO IT RELATES. 

References include:


EMBED THIS VIDEO! Video: http://www.thebodyshop


How Do I Eat/Drink/Shop Local?

 Farm Fresh Rhode Island is a non-profit dedicated to creating a “local food system that values the environment, health and quality of life of RI farmers and eaters.” They partner with farmer’s markets, restaurants, cafés, etc. around Rhode Island in various programs to ensure local produce is cheap and available to local schools, communities and everyday Rhode Islanders!

How do you know if it’s Rhode Island Farm Fresh? Easy! Just look for the ‘Farm Fresh’ tomato seal…

If a restaurant or café carries this seal it’s produce is grown in Rhode Island by Rhode Island farmers.

Check out their blog to learn more about what’s in season, where to find local farmer’s markets, or how to get involved in the local food movement.

Tired of Thayer? Check out their local food guide for somewhere new and tasty!



America’s Best Coffee Cities? Providence Ranks #4!

According to Travel and Lesuire’s (an online travel magazine) ranking of ‘America’s Best Coffee Cities’ Providence has the 4th best coffee in the nation! Providence received the award for our many “mom-and-pop style cafés.” 

 The article specifically pointed out the “legendary” Coffee Exchange, an artsy coffeehouse on Wickendon St. (only 15 minutes walk from the center of campus!). While Coffee Exchange has not yet found a way to make their cups recyclable or compostable, they do boast 100% organic and fair trade coffee. Indeed most local cafés are organic and fair trade simply because this is much easier to do on a small-scale. 


Seven Stars Bakery also sells organic and fair-trade coffee, plus all of their food is local! – the café is a partner of Buy Local RI and proudly bears the ‘Farm Fresh RI’ tomato seal. This means less fuel used for transportation and the profits are going straight back into the local community. 

So… although Providence may be home to the largest number of Dunkin’ Donuts per capita in the country, there are plenty of other options! Visiting local coffeehouses is a great way to get off campus and get to know the local community. Next time you’re feeling suffocated or stressed, try taking a stroll to Wickendon St. or Wayland Square and grab a cup of organic, fair-trade coffee.