Like most agricultural products, coffee beans have an environmental footprint. The journey from bean to cup involves many steps and supply chains. Finding a sustainable coffee source means finding coffee that is environmentally farmed, harvested and packaged.
The way the coffee plant is grown has environmental consequences. A shift from “shade grown” to “full sun” coffee plant growing comes with harmful effects. Full sun coffee is grown without other plant species and often uses deforested land for maximum sun impact. Shade grown coffee on farms reduced from 43% to 24% between 1996 and 2010. Find coffee that is shade grown certified.
A coffee guide by the Audubon Society tells consumers to avoid beans grown in Vietnam or Brazil. While these are the two largest coffee-producing countries, the majority of farms in these areas use full sun cultivation techniques. India, Ecuador and Peru coffees are often shade grown.
When buying coffee, it’s also important to consider how you will make the coffee at home. Sujatha Bergen, Director of Health Campaigns, Health and Food Division of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), told Mic how to consume coffee responsibly, “at the same time, billions of coffee cups are thrown away each year around the world, and only a tiny fraction of these are recycled. The plastic coating on these cups pollutes our landfills, and contributes to the global plastic pollution problem that plagues our oceans and waterways.”
There are a few other ways to advocate for better coffee agriculture. Don’t buy single-use coffee pods and bring your own cups to cafes. Bergen also encourages citizens to lobby and vote for trade policy in their home countries. These policies affect supply and demand of coffee and contribute to safe environmental agriculture.
Read more about coffee in One Green Planet. Check out these articles:
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