From cafes in Paris to coffee shops in Turkey to the first Starbucks that opened in Ho Chi Minh on February 1st, 2013, coffee addicts are everywhere. We all know coffee stains our teeth, and that caffeine is one of the most addicted substances we can legally consume, but what about the negative environmental effects of drinking the liquid gold?
THE EFFECTS OF SUN-CULTIVATED COFFEE
Traditionally, coffee is grown under the tropical rainforest canopy at high elevations, where it contributes to incredible biodiversity. It grows with other plants, and they share and exchange nutrients. But because of high modern demands and our consistently impatient culture, this method of growing has been almost entirely replaced by “sun cultivation.” Sun-cultivated coffee is grown in monoculture on large plantations in tropical countries, with no forest canopy, where laborers are paid next to nothing for long hours of brutal, backbreaking work. Furthermore, delicate mountainous ecosystems are often annihilated to make room for more coffee farms, where herbicides, chemical fertilizers, and insecticides are dumped on coffee plants to boost their yields. High yields of coffee per acre are associated with enormous environmental costs. Fertilizers and pesticides run off with the rain and wash away into rivers that lead to delicate riparian and marine ecosystems. Natural nutrients are sucked away from soil. Over time, this method of growing coffee has become affordable to us, but expensive and destructive to the environment at large.
The good news? You don’t have to give up your cup of daily joe to help make a difference. By purchasing “shade-grown coffee” or “fair trade coffee,” you can help alleviate the pressure that drinking traditional coffee has on tropical ecosystems. Fair trade coffee pays laborers fair wages, while shade-grown coffee is grown using the traditional forest canopy method. Traditional coffee produces tons of waste in the forms of pulp, residual matter, and parchment. This waste ends up in waterways and causes eutrophication and hypoxia to form oceanic dead zones. Shade-grown coffee, on the other hand, utilizes the wastes associated with growing coffee for fertilizer, which helps improve overall soil quality. When purchasing a bag of coffee, simply look for the “fair trade” or “organic” seal of approval to the left. What better way to celebrate National Coffee Day than by enjoying a cup that was fairly produced through ethical and economical means?
Here are a few of our favorite brands of organic, fair-trade, or shade-grown coffee:
1. Equal Exchange. A fairly traded brand that comes directly from small farm cooperatives in Latin America.
2. Reggie’s Roast. Organic, fair trade coffee from farm cooperatives in Central America.
3. Cafe Britt Costa Rica Organic Shade Grown Ground Coffee. Made of naturally ripened coffee beans grown under a naturally shaded canopy by certified growers in Costa Rica.
Salvesen, David (1996). “The Grind Over Sun Coffee”. Zoogoer (Smithsonian National Zoological Park) 25 (4).
Liu, Chenglin. “Is ‘USDA Organic’ a Seal of Deceit?: The Pitfalls of USDA Certified Organics Produced in the United States, China, and Beyond.” Stanford Journal of International Law. 47.333 (2011): 333-378. Print.
Valkila, Joni. “Fair Trade Organic Coffee Production in Nicaragua — Sustainable Development or a Poverty Trap?” Ecological Economics 68.12 (2009): 3018-025. Academic Search Complete. Web. 15 Nov. 2011.
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