Green Grid Radio

Engaging and transformative reporting on the environment, energy, and sustainability

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S5E1: Coffee: Trouble Brewing?

Coffee is the second most traded global commodity after oil, employing millions of people to produce the 2 billion cups consumed around the world every day. But from production in developing countries, to global trade, to consumption in developed countries, the industry is plagued with some dirty secrets.

In this collaborative piece, Green Grid Radio and Making Contact team up to explore the lesser-known environmental and social justice costs of your morning coffee habit.

Jennifer Dunn reports from Colombia as she learns how Colombia’s small-scale coffee farmers are struggling to protect their crops and salvage their livelihoods. Mallory Smith hears from both sides of an ugly split in the fair trade movement, a movement which was first borne out of the desire to improve the lives of those who grow our coffee, but which some say has been co-opted by people with a different vision. And Laura Flynn decides to find out what happens to our little K-cups – those convenient single-cup brewing pods which seem like a miracle of modernity – once we throw them away.

Hosted by Mallory Smith and George Lavender. Contributing producers: Jennifer Dunn, Laura Flynn, Mallory Smith.


Coffee farmers Jairo Martinez, Mariana Cruz, Suzana Angarita

Jeff Goldman, former executive director of Fairtrade Resource Network

Jeff Chean, Principal and Chief Coffee Guy Groundwork Coffee

John Hazen, single-cup coffee machine owner

Rebecca Jewell, recycling program manager for Davis Street Transfer Station


Pensacola Twilight, Lee Rosevere

Cafetero, Christian Martinez

Grand Caravan, Blue Dot Sessions

Them Never Love No Bans, Hot Fire

La Boite a Sons – Contest Contributions, various artists


For more information:

Fair Trade Lite: Fair Trade USA moves away from worker co-ops

Hijacked Organic, Limited Local, Faulty Fair Trade

Roundup on Fair Trade USA/FLO Split

A Brewing Problem

Your Coffee Pods’ Dirty Secret

Kill the K-cup (video)


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Coming Soon . . .

Hello listeners! We’ve been quiet these past few months but will be back before the end of the year. Look forward to interviews with filmmaker Jeff Orlowski on his film Chasing Ice, and with author Ozzie Zehner on his book Green Illusions.

We’ll also be at Storylab this Friday at 1 PM with the Stanford Storytelling Project — stop by if you’re in town!

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Fo(u)r more on fish . . .

After we aired our ocean privatization episode a few weeks ago, I picked up “Four Fish” by Paul Greenberg. If you want to learn more about fisheries management, the development of aquaculture (so much fascinating science and history), read this book! Greenberg takes us from his childhood fishing haunts to an Alaskan fishing village, from deep off the coast of Hawaii to the Sinai peninsula. We zip back in time to when the Greeks named sea bass, take a peek at the peak and demise of the whaling industry, and get a thoughtful glimpse at different paths for the future of fish.

Image attributed to Greenberg/Penguin Books, (2011)

Perfect for reading on the beach this summer.

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What Can Professionals Do To Continue Learning Outside Of a Classroom Environment?

One of our all-star panelists, Matt Chalmers put together this nifty little guide for the intellectually curious among our audience. If you missed his appearance on Green Grid Radio, make sure you take a listen. He’s quite the knowledgeable resource. So without further ado…

1. Spend Time On Brookings

It occurs to me the best answer to that is relatively straightforward. First, for high-level discussions of U.S. and international politics, economics, and policy, just spend time on Brookings ( This is one of the major think tanks in D.C., and is a major creator of policy briefs for Congress and the President. I personally use their homepage like a newpaper, and strongly encourage other folks (especially in the science/climate community) who are serious about understanding our high-level national discourse to follow suit. It’s sort of like the Daily Show, minus the comedy, plus an incredible amount of depth. You won’t get lightning-fast “news” but you get very strong analysis of major current events, national and international. Brookings is considered faintly left-leaning by some, but this is a very professional and objective institution.

2. Read The Economist

A few more major plug-ins: most businesspeople rely heavily on The Economist, and although some quasi “right wing” perspectives will appear, this is actually a stronger reflection of the interests of the business community at large. Very strong international coverage. Good for keeping tabs on major events. Also focuses more on analysis and a little less on “newsy” headlines. Many political science and economics classes taught at Stanford either encourage or require students to be up on the Economist.

3. Read Foreign Affairs/CFR for International Politics (optional–for those into major international issues)

For those interested in international politics, make sure to also spend some time on Foreign Affairs. This is also slightly more right-leaning in some ways, but this isn’t a bad thing. Many serious professors and scholars (the kind likely to end up in high-level State Department positions) have written for Foreign Affairs. Additionally, the Council on Foreign Relations ( ), the parent organization that publishes Foreign Affairs, often has insightful articles on their homepage. It’s important to note that Foreign Affairs is an academic journal, and reflects cutting-edge theoretical thinking and framing of global issues. This is much more for strategic insight. Brookings tends to condense the issues into more descriptive, policy briefing-style informative articles.

4. Insight on Congress from Politico (optional–for those into national policymaking)

On a less elevated but perhaps more important note, most U.S. Congressmen and Senators (or at least their aides) religiously follow Politico. The way I’ve had this described to me by both political science professors as well as insiders on the Hill is that Congressmen and Senators “speak” to each other about their positions and policy preferences, and what things are important. Politico believe it or not serves an important signaling function in our national government. Note that it tends to be less elevated, and rather gossipy. This is actually important training for understanding the world that policymakers and politicians live in — and legislate from. It should make some major flaws readily apparent.

If a climate scientist came to me and asked “What can I do to learn as much as possible about everything you suggested?” I’d point them at a minimum at Brookings and the Economist, and encourage reading both of these on a regular basis. You can self-teach yourself an enormous amount here.

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The Show..

Welcome to the Green Grid Radio website.

My name is Adam and I’m the host and creator of the program. I’ve been involved in radio at KZSU Stanford for a long time now – since fall of 2008. As an undergraduate I explored the form of a(n experimental) music show extensively, and I even managed KZSU from 2011-2012. I finally decided it was time to merge my two passions: radio and sustainable energy.

The program is a weekly interview, panel, and news show on the Californian and American transition to renewable electricity sources. This will include discussions of utility-scale wind, solar, and geothermal facilities, energy efficient buildings, and transportation technologies. Guests on the show will run the gamut from Stanford professors to industrial professionals to environmental conservationists.

There’s a lot of programming out there in the same sphere, so how will my show be different?

  • 1) The structure. Each month, we’ll focus on an umbrella subject and broach the topics from many different perspectives. As mentioned, different stakeholders will provide their perspectives on what is coming, what is important, and what is feasible.
  • 2) Current events. The show will incorporate recent policy debates and technological improvements to consider the future of the energy source/field. For example, one could imagine the Production Tax Credit will feature prominently in wind conversations.
  • 3) Guests. We won’t be shy in bringing in faculty, researchers, and other high-level thinkers in these worlds. It’s nice to hear industry spokespeople, but the show will be rooted in science, and not in buzz words and vague jobs projections.

If you have any questions, suggestions, or you’d like to participate on or contribute to the program, feel free to email me: adam [at] kzsu [dot] stanford [dot] edu.