In 2019, consumers are aware that not ever manufacturing, farming, factory or production job is created equally.
As the world becomes more connected, many consumers are considering whether the products that they use each day are being built, manufactured or grown ethically. And coffee is no exception!
Coffee lovers want a top-quality, affordable brew, but they also want their purchases to mean more globally. Distributors have been quick to respond to socially aware, environmentally conscious consumers with new labeling that addresses everything from the sustainability of growing practices to the way coffee is traded. Terms like Fair Trade, ethically grown and sustainably sourced are on dozens of coffees today, but what do they mean? Let’s find out.
In this guide, we are considering the ethical and ecological impact of our coffee.
So, while the French press vs drip debate drones on in the background, there are good reasons for coffee lovers to consider using both technologies. Let’s have a closer look at why.
Does Drinking Ethically Produced, Sustainably Sourced Coffee Matter?
Timing and Convenience
Because most coffee is grown in developing nations, international trade rules weren’t enough to protect the environment and small growers from unscrupulous profiteers.
Consumers like you voted with their wallets to make a change, and this support has encouraged the use of environmentally friendly growing practices as well as the fair treatment of farmers and laborers. When you choose responsibly sourced coffee, everyone wins and that not only feels good, it also encourages companies to continue doing the right thing.
What Does Ethically Sourced Mean?
The ethically sourced label means that the coffee you’re buying is produced in a way that is respectful to both the environment and the people growing it.
Starbucks, a top corporate buyer, founded an ethical sourcing program more than two decades ago to benefit the economic wellness of small coffee farms and by default, the environment. Today, its Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) Practices influence coffee production worldwide and have resulted in the preservation of thousands of acres of natural forest and over a million workers earning more than the minimum wage.
When you buy ethically sourced coffee, the profits go to growers — not intermediaries. When farmers make more money, they’re better able to support their families and communities, and they are less likely to resort to destructive growing practices to keep costs down.
What is Sustainably Grown Coffee?
Growing and processing coffee has a profound environmental impact. The climate is changing, and areas that that were once ideal for growing beans are now too warm. Moving crops to higher altitudes is an environmentally-friendly solution, but poor farmers often choose to clear forest instead because it’s less expensive.
With each tree cut, carbon is released into the atmosphere — further warming the Earth — and when enough area on the steep slopes where coffee grows is deforested, erosion occurs, causing damaging sediment to collect in rivers and stream. Add water-intensive processing methods that pour contaminated wastewater to local waterways, and the current methods for growing and harvesting coffee are a recipe for ecological disaster.
How can coffee lovers help? It’s tough on an individual basis. The areas where most coffee is grown, including South America and Ethiopia, are geopolitically unstable. Leaders come and go, and corruption is rampant.
The most effective way to help is to support companies that buy from responsible growers. Starbucks and McDonalds, among others, are using their international business presence to encourage cooperation with environmental and labor standards, while organizations like Conservation International are bringing awareness to economic and climate change issues with initiatives like the Sustainable Coffee Challenge.
The Challenge’s goal is to bring together partners from growers and researchers to governments and distributors who are committed to the long-term sustainability of coffee as a crop. By increasing demand for sustainably sourced coffee, Challenge organizers hope that both growers and distributors will embrace environmentally and socially sound practices.
When you buy beans, look for the sustainably grown label on the packaging. Ask for it at your favorite coffee shop and purchase it only from responsible roasters.
Finding the Right Partner
If you’re ready to commit to buying sustainably grown coffee, but you’re not sure where to start, these sustaincoffee.org partners have pledged to work together for the cause.
I know what you are thinking, that list is really short! We have started to ask our local roasters about the coffee that they source and I haven’t gotten clear answers either. So as of July 2019, we still don’t have the best answer for you, dear reader!
What Common Coffee Labels Mean?
Coffee with a Fairtrade seal means it was certified by Fairtrade International, an organization dedicated to improving social, economic and ecological standards for growing coffee by buying beans directly from small-scale farms.
Fairtrade International helps farmers by setting a minimum price for beans that covers the cost of environmentally sound production and protects growers against falling prices. They add a small premium to each sale and return the money directly to producers to invest in their businesses and communities.
Because the U.S.D.A. regulates the term organic, U.S.D.A. Organic is among the most meaningful labels on coffee. To earn the seal, beans and the soil they are grown in must be free from most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Growers carefully document their bean production from start to finish, and farms are inspected every year to ensure they’re meeting expectations.
Fair Trade Certified
Fair Trade Certified products are promoted by Fair Trade U.S.A., another organization dedicated to environmental sustainability and economic fairness across a range of industries.
Unlike FairTrade International, however, they work with coffee producers of all sizes. Standards that address child labor and workplace safety as well as wage rules are enforced, but payments are not always made directly to small growers — a practice that industry insiders say needs to be improved.
This label certifies that coffee is both organic and was grown in “bird-friendly habitat” as defined by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. To meet that definition, farms must protect the biodiversity and native trees that provide important areas for birds and other wildlife to nest in.
Rainforest Alliance Certified
The Rainforest Alliance seal indicates that at least some the coffee in a batch comes from farms meeting biodiversity and sustainability goals. Standards are similar to those used to earn the Bird-friendly Habitat seal, but they’re less stringent and seek to recognize improvement rather than emphasizing an all-or-nothing approach.
Thanks for reading – If you haven’t already, consider some of these great French Presses on Amazon:
Secura Stainless Steel French Press Coffee Maker
Cafe Du Chateau – French Press Coffee Maker
Large French Press Coffee Maker – Vacuum Insulated Stainless