coffee and environment

How Coffee and Environmentalism interact

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Organic, Fair Trade, Imported, and Shade Grown Coffee

One thing many coffee drinkers have in common is a shared love of the environment. As such, many coffee drinkers endeavor to purchase coffee that is produced in an environmentally friendly way, or at the very least, in an organic way. In many cases, this means purchasing coffee with labels such as organic, Fair Trade certified, imported, or shade grown.

But in the end, what do these things mean, and how do they relate to the effect that coffee and coffee farming has on the environment? Read on to find out.

Fairtrade Coffee and the Environment

According to Kate Lewis, Business Development Manager at the Fair Trade Foundation, the mission of Fair Trade coffee is to reduce poverty through trade by offering a structured minimum price and premium guarantee for producers. This helps sustain coffee farmers, though it does not necessarily have a direct effect on the environmental impact of coffee.

Rainforest Alliance Coffee and the Environment

On the other hand, the Rainforest Alliance is primarily focused on protecting the environment. For Rainforest Alliance certification, growers need to meet Sustainable Agricultural Network Standards, which means adherence to a number of guiding principles, including a ban on deforestation.

Shade Grown Coffee and the Environment

Shade grown coffee is a type of coffee that more and more environmentally conscious coffee drinkers are drawn to. Shade growing is actually the old-school and traditional way to grow coffee — under a canopy of shade trees, rather than exposed to direct sunlight. These days, many people are returning to shade grown beans, and with good reason.

First, many people actually find they prefer the taste of shade grown coffee. Secondly, shade grown coffee is healthier, as it is grown without all the chemicals that are sprayed on ordinary coffee beans. Perhaps most importantly, shade grown coffee is much better for the environment. It requires trees to work, so deforestation is not a concern, and it needs little to no chemical fertilizer, herbicides or pesticides. It is truly organic coffee.

Are Organic and Imported Coffees Better for the Environment?

Whether a high quality imported coffee is better for the environment depends purely on the certification standards the growers were forced to adhere to. If there are no guidelines in place, imported coffee could have just as detrimental an impact on the environment as conventional, domestic coffee, if not more.

Organic coffee, on the other hand, even if it is not shade grown, is free of pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic additives or chemical fertilizer. This certainly makes them much healthier for you, as formulations like pesticides and herbicides are by definition, poison, and not something you want to be ingesting.

But yes, organic coffee is also better for the environment, as those herbicides, pesticides and other chemicals, since they are not being sprayed onto your coffee, are also not being sprayed onto the earth or into the atmosphere. This means the process is healthier for the farmers who are growing it, and for the environment they are growing it in.

Factoring in the Cost of Coffee That’s Environmentally Sound

Many people find they prefer the taste of organic coffee, although some may balk at the cost. There can be no doubt, however, that drinking organic coffee, especially kinds that are grown under strict pro-environment guideline certification requirements and those that are shade grown, are beneficial to the environment, and well worth a little extra cash for the benefits to the environment that result from organic coffee growing practices.

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