When you’re bleary-eyed in the morning and reaching for that steaming hot cup o’ joe, you’re probably thinking something along the lines of “COFFEE COFFEE COFFEE” rather than “Hey, is this cup of coffee eco-friendly?” But thinking about the answer to this question is just one of the small daily changes you can make this Earth Day to step into a more eco-conscious lifestyle. When shopping for coffee, use our handy earth-friendly checklist to make sure that your caffeine fix is powered by green energy:
Is it organic?
It’s pretty much common sense by now that organic plants are way, way better for the planet. But non-organic coffee beans are also heavily treated with chemical pesticides that you can’t exactly wash off, so choosing organic is also better for you (not to mention the people who grow it and would be exposed to pesticides daily).
Is it shade-grown?
In coffee-producing regions of the world, it’s not uncommon for large parts of the forest to be cut down in order to grow the profitable crop known as “black gold” (coffee). But shade-grown coffee, plants that are cultivated underneath the intact forest canopy, has enormous benefits for the ecosystem. Think soil and water conversation, and the preservation of natural wildlife habitats.
Is it bird-friendly?
Some shade-growers even go the extra mile to earn the “bird-friendly” certification—because cutting down the forest, of course, means destroying the homes and disrupting the migratory patterns of tons of birds worldwide.
Is it fair trade?
In the last decade, fair trade certification has become so valued by coffee drinkers that giant chains like Starbucks and Nestle now use certified fair trade coffee. But what does fair trade really mean? Loosely defined, for a bag of coffee to earn a fair trade sticker, it should be grown by farmers who are members of a democratically run co-op, say ‘No’ to child labor, be treated with limited pesticides, and put as much money into the communities that grow it as the pockets of the exporters. There are some criticisms surrounding the fairness of fair trade labeling, so the logo should be taken with a grain of salt, but in general it's a good indication that the coffee company you’re supporting is thinking about its impact on the earth.
Did you brew it yourself?
Another easy way to make your daily coffee more eco-friendly is to brew it at home in your favorite mug and skip the paper take-out cup with its plastic lid and unnecessary cozy. When you’re done brewing, collect the used coffee grounds and give them new life as fertilizer for your acid-loving plants. Not only will you be reducing waste, your plants and herbs will love the extra nitrogen, too.
And when you do go out, don’t be afraid to ask the folks behind the counter at your favorite coffee shop where they source their beans—if they pay half as much attention to their product’s impact on the planet as they do on their latte art, you can feel good about your daily fix. Though a bag of coffee beans that are friendly on the earth isn’t always going to be as friendly on your budget, growers who make sure that their product meets eco-conscious standards give their coffee extra care, that means you’ll be drinking a higher-quality and definitely more flavorful brew.
Not sure where to start?
Our favorite ethical brand is Kicking Horse’s whole bean coffee. This Canadian-based roaster touts itself as being certified organic, fair-trade and delicious. Kicking Horse is Canada’s top-selling eco-conscious coffee bean and comes in a variety of roasts including a decaf blend. Coffee snobs will love the rich, smooth flavor and mocha notes. The shade grown beans come in adorable reusable tin canisters that helps the beans maintain their maximum flavor profile. Kicking Horse currently meets or exceeds national Organic certification requirements in Canada, the United States and in Europe.
For coffee lovers in the states, we suggest Tree Hugger Jo brand. Tree Hugger sources the top 2% of arabica beans to make a coffee that is both 100% USDA organic and fair trade. The mellow medium roast sports notes of sweet citrus fruit and white cocoa that reviewers loved. Not only is it tasty, but you can feel good about drinking, it too.
Other brands that come highly recommended include:
- Caffe Britt’s Bajo Sombra — Mountain-grown coffee beans from Costa Rica. Medium roast with light acidity and brightness
- Tiny Footprint — A carbon negative coffee brand that is reforesting parts of Ecuador. For every 4 pounds of carbon made in its production, Tiny Footprint pledges to plant enough trees to remove 54 pounds of carbon from the atmosphere.
- Equal Exchange’s Mind Body and Soul Coffee — Lauded as both a “crowd pleaser and snob pleaser,” Equal Exchange offers an impressive medium roast coffee sourced from small farmer coops in Latin America.
All coffees mentioned are shade grown, USDA certified Organic and Fair Trade.
Looking for more ways to live a greener life? Check out these delicious and easy to prepare "green" recipes from Webecoist