Coffee has received a bad rap recently because of the adverse environmental effects of many modern coffee plantations. For those of us who enjoy sipping our favorite brew, this is disheartening news. Fortunately, more traditional methods of shaded coffee cultivation are beginning to see use again.Continue reading “Shade Grown Coffee: Why It Matters”
Coffee is one of the world’s most popular commodities. It is traded more than all other commodities, except for crude oil. With such a high demand and so much production going on throughout the world, the coffee industry has the potential to significantly impact our environment. Indeed, in the last several decades, the effects of the coffee industry have been substantial.
Pollution and deforestation have been problems, and recent evidence suggests that deforestation of tropical regions — the primary coffee growing centers — causes more climate change than all of our automobiles combined. This realization is leading to dramatic changes in the way coffee is grown.
A Move to Sustainable Coffee Growing Practices
Not long ago, the demand for coffee was so great that it fueled a frenzy of non-sustainable coffee production. Instead of growing coffee under the forest canopy as it was traditionally grown, coffee plantations began to clear-cut the forests to make way for full sun coffee plantations. Although these full sun plantations required large quantities of fertilizers and pesticides, they could produce more coffee than shade grown operations.
Unfortunately, these plantations, which are still the most common type of plantation, led to chemical pollution of delicate ecosystems and the destruction of habitat for countless species. Worse still, the coffee they produced was tainted with residual chemicals, the work conditions were often unethical, and the contribution to global warming unthinkable.
Environmentally conscious farmers began to move toward the proven shade grown coffee plantations, which integrated coffee plants into forests. Clear cut land was reforested to create shade grown operations, and organic, chemical-free coffees became more common. Although these farmers are still in the minority, they are leading the coffee industry in a positive direction.
Carbon Offsets and Coffee Production
The growing climate crisis has made the practice of deforestation in the name of profit an unthinkable thing to do. Yet, without proper incentive, coffee plantations are slow to move to more sustainable systems. Fortunately, carbon offsets provide a much needed motivation.
Organizations like Conservation International have been working with farmers over the last decade to encourage environmentally conscious practices though the sale of carbon offsets. By giving farmers a potential monetary incentive to cultivate forests alongside coffee farms, farmers can still make a profit while helping to combat our climate crisis.
Over the last several years, even Starbucks has joined the cause and begun to promote forest conservation. It is now possible to purchase coffee from major retailers that contributes to reforestation instead of deforestation. This is good news for consumers and for the environment. As consumers, we can help fight deforestation by purchasing sustainable coffees, which encourages shade grown coffee plantations.
For more information on Starbucks conservation program check this link out.
Ever wonder about fair trade coffee and why it might matter?
Second only to crude oil, coffee is the most traded commodity on earth. Like other booming industries of trade, the potential for abuse is great, and over the years, we have seen a number of unfortunate side effects of the coffee trade. These include a number of environmental effects, human rights violations, risks to consumers, and negative impacts to communities around the world. But we can make a difference by buying fair trade coffee.
What is Fair Trade Coffee?
Fair trade certification promotes healthy work conditions by giving growers an economic incentive for using good practices. For certifications, coffee growers must join a coop, which determines the minimum amount paid to growers and how any excess profits will be spent. These premiums often go back to growers or are spent on education or community development to improve conditions in coffee growing countries.
Fair Trade Benefits Human Rights
When you buy fair trade coffee, you know that you arenâ€™t contributing to human rights violations. Many coffee plantations, which are not fair trade, provide work conditions that arenâ€™t healthy or fair for works. Child labor has been a common problem with coffee plantations. But fair trade agreements allow workers to be paid wages that are appropriate while ensuring that work conditions are reasonable.
Environmental Impact of Fair Trade Coffee
Fair trade agreements foster informed growing practices, which lead to more responsible coffee plantations. Often fair trade coffee is grown on full shade plantations, which have a positive impact on the environment, especially compared to the more common full sun plantations, which lead to deforestation. And deforestation of our tropical regions is a major factor in global warming.
Fair trade coffee is often organic, which reduces environmental issues with the potential misuse of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. This theoretically can result in a healthier coffee for consumers, because it hasn’t been sprayed with anything.
Coffee that is grown without chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, has a more positive effect on the surrounding community and on the plantations workers. (And on the pests and weeds too, ha ha.) Â In countries where pesticide and fertilizer usage is hardly regulated, heavy chemical use can potentially lead to chemical poisoning of workers and potential negative health consequences of those living in the surrounding area.
Fair Trade Coffee: More Expensive?
If you pay attention to prices when you shop, then youâ€™ve probably noticed that fair trade coffee seems to cost a little more than â€œregularâ€ coffee. But the fact is, regular coffee comes with hidden costs to farmers and to whole communities around the world.
What’s your favorite fair trade coffee? Leave a comment!
- Coffee evolved under the rainforest canopy. Â Although coffee started out as a shade-loving shrub, the high demand for coffee led to full-sun plantations, which required large quantities of fertilizers and pesticides.
- Full-sun coffee plantations lead to deforestation. Â 37 of the 50 countries with the highest rates of deforestation are coffee producers. Â The top 25 coffee exporters lost an average of 27 thousand square miles of forest annually during the end of the twentieth century.
- Non-organic coffee often leads to habitat loss. Â Â Coffee grown under full sun does not supply adequate habitat for native species. Â Indeed, full sun coffee plantations provide habitat Â for 90% fewer species than do shade-grown coffee plantations.
- Organic shade grown coffee combats global warming. Â Shade grown coffee plantations include a diverse array of tree species that provide a shade-giving canopy over coffee plants. Â These coffee plantations add oxygen to the environment while removing greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.
- A study conducted in the late eighties found that coffee plantations in Central America polluted more than 29 million gallons of water daily. Â This is the equivalent of a city with 4 million citizens dumping their sewage into the local rivers day after day. Â Todayâ€™s eco-friendly organic farms use less water and make an effort to dispose of it properly.
- Despite the effects of non-organic coffee production, the vast majority of coffee is non-organic. Â Indeed, in 2006 not even one percent of the total coffee consumed was organic.
- In Colombia, a coffee supplier which has mostly full sun coffee plantations, more than 440,000 tons of chemical fertilizers are applied to coffee crops.
- Consumers who buy organic do make a difference. Â Although few plantations are organic, shade grown, or fair trade, the higher market value of these coffees Â encourages more farmers to revert to environmentally friendly farming. Â Even Starbucks has begun to support forest conservation.