Sustainable Coffee. Why Choosing Sustainable Coffee is so Important


This is a guest post by David prosser from

Sustainability. For those seeking to be eco-friendly and environmentally smart, sustainability is a buzzword that reflects the need to maintain a human-ecosystem equilibrium, where what we take from the planet can be put back into the planet. This “do no harm” approach should be brought into many trades, including agriculture, and more importantly, the coffee industry. There are certain reasons why choosing sustainable coffee is pivotal.

Unless you truly love a steaming cup of climate change at breakfast, of course.

Coffee Economics

Unroasted coffee is one of the most traded agricultural goods, and this has a huge impact on the farmers and consumers. Before sustainability and ethical agriculture was a requirement, the environmental impact, as well as the poor conditions of farmers in lesser developed countries, was shadowed by the supply and demand.

In 2010, Brazil and Vietnam were the first and second largest producers of coffee in the world. Though Arabica and higher grade coffee beans that are grown ethically are done in shade, most of the Brazilian and Vietnamese farms grow Robusta beans and had little to no tree cover. The Huffington Post published an article in 2014 stating that between 1996 and 2010 the farms that employed “traditional shade-growing methods plummeted from 43 percent to 24 percent.”

What does that mean for the environment? Biodiversity was lost, and the ground around the farms lost a significant amount of topsoil too. Trees were cut down to make room for coffee plantations, and the people working there had to deal with long hours in direct sunlight.

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In Asia, Africa, and South America, those people working in the coffee industry—not the Starbucks baristas or Keurig—but those individuals harvesting the coffee beans and raising the trees are barely making enough money to sustain their livelihood. Fair Trade was created to overcome poverty and ensure producers in third world countries a chance to make a profit by offering a guaranteed price. However, Fair Trade does little in the means of how the coffee is produced.

What You Can Do

Purchasing non sustainable coffee is not only harming the planet, it is unfair to the people who are working for pennies so you can enjoy a steaming cup of espresso at home. Guess what? Sustainable coffee not only tastes awesome because it was grown the way nature intended it to be, you are bolstering the overall well being of the planet and communities throughout the world.

Here is what you can do:

Buy organically grown coffee. Otherwise, your coffee beans are going to be slathered in herbicide and pesticides. These chemicals are not just terrible for you, they cripple the environment and cause soil erosion.

Buy Fair Trade Certified coffee. It was mentioned earlier, but purchasing Fair Trade coffee is a smart choice because the families harvesting the coffee have less incentive to ruin their environment to compete with other farms.

Look for “shade grown” coffee. Monoculture in the environment is outrageously negative. Invasive species migrate into places with a lack of biodiversity and can easily destroy an ecosystem. Also, when coffee is grown in its natural setting, such as tropical rainforests, the migration patterns of 150 species of birds goes undisrupted.

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Oh, and for the coffee connoisseur, shade grown coffee has a richer flavor than those grown in full sunlight.

Lastly, opt for carbon-neutral coffee. Global climate change actually is ruining coffee. Because the plant itself is quite fragile, even the slightest change in temperature, air quality, or amount of precipitation can threaten entire crops of coffee.

If you are unsure whether or not your favorite brand of coffee is Fair Trade certified, organic, or shade grown, check out that specific brand’s website or give a representative a call. Many big names, like Starbucks, are trying their best to maintain strict compliance with ethical guidelines. However, the more people like you know about the importance of buying sustainable coffee, the easier it will be to procure it.

Sustainable coffee protects the environment but also acts as quality assurance. No one who loves coffee wants to see it disappear from the planet, after all. By investing in coffee that is grown organically and with a low carbon footprint, the quality of your coffee, as well as the availability is guaranteed. However, you take your coffee, make sure it comes with an extra shot of eco-friendliness!

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