Students at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) are now fueling up for late night study sessions and early morning classes with Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee. The school—a leader in art and design education—made the switch to Rainforest Alliance Certified beans in the fall of 2012 at the suggestion of its roaster, Omar Coffee Company.
Dining Services researched Rainforest Alliance certification and “found a natural fit between the organizations’s goals and its own core value of sustainability,” explains Pierre St-Germain, associate director of RISD Dining Services. The Rainforest Alliance’s focus on the three pillars of sustainability (social, environmental and economic) appealed to RISD Dining Services staff who, St-Germain says, believe that “buying sustainable products is more important than buying organic products.”
RISD Dining Services have always worked closely with Omar, which supplies 85 percent of coffee on the school’s campus. Prior to the decision to switch to Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee, 75 to 80 percent of the school’s coffee was organic Fair Trade certified and the remaining 20 to 25 percent was uncertified flavored coffee.
RISD began to consider changing to a more sustainable brew in 2011 and, in the spring of 2012, Omar conducted a taste test with students to see how they liked the Rainforest Alliance Certified blend. The new java was a hit and by the following year the campus was sourcing coffee from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms.
Making the switch has been beneficial to RISD in a number of ways: the school is providing exceptional coffee to its student body at a lower cost; it has strengthened their relationship with Omar; and the campus now serves a product that aligns more closely with their core sustainability values.
Is your school interested in making the transition to Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee? Contact Wilson Griffin for more information.
The Princeton Business Volunteers (PBV)—a group of Princeton University undergraduates providing consulting services for nonprofit organizations—and the Rainforest Alliance conducted a case study on RISD’s switch to Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee in the spring of 2013. PBV assessed the motivations behind the switch, the challenges faced and the students’ response.