Coffee drinkers have been confused for a very long time. When they go to the store they see words like “organic”, “ecological”, “fair trade”, “save the rainforest!” And the only obvious difference among all those varieties and the regular pack of coffee is its higher price.
So, why is it so important to consume sustainable coffee?
First of all, I use “sustainable coffee” to describe a wide variety of agricultural methods that are focused on taking care of the environment where the coffee grows to ensure its future (re)production. It also includes certain standards of fairness for the social part of the coffee production: The farmers!
There are many sustainable agricultural methods that can be used in coffee production. The “organic” one, which is the most common, consists of diverse techniques that seek to nurture the coffee plant and the soil, but without using any artificial substances (fertilizers or pesticides). It is well known that the misuse of these artificial substances can cause negative effects on the environment and on human and animal health.
Another sustainable method or set of practices is called “agro-ecological”, this may or may not use the organic principle of avoiding artificial substances, but makes sure to support a healthy agro-ecosystem where the coffee grows, so a diversity of plants, trees and animals can co-exist and help each other thrive.
The other aspect of the sustainability in coffee production relates to the socio-economic justice of the coffee producers: The farmers. Nowadays many certification seals and companies make sure that the farmers receive fair prices for their production, that they run democratic organizations for the trading of their coffee, and that they ensure gender equality in their decision making. All of these factors contribute to support the welfare of the farmer’s livelihoods, as well as their ability to manage their environments in the most sustainable way possible.
There are certainly many coffee cultivation methods and production systems, but the ones that are based on excessive artificial fertilizers and pesticides for mass production, intense deforestation, and paying low prices to the producers, are certainly not beneficial for human and environmental health. And that is why it is so important to support and consume sustainable coffee.
In the end, whether you choose an organic, fair trade, ecological or what not… It is worth spending a little more for that bag of sustainable coffee for all the hard work that’s behind it.
For more information:
- FAO, “What is organic agriculture?”. Link: http://www.fao.org/organicag/oa-faq/oa-faq1/en/
- FAO, “Agroecology & family farming”, Family farming knowledge platform. Link: http://www.fao.org/organicag/oa-faq/oa-faq1/en/
- Fair Trade Federation, “What is fair trade?”. Link: https://www.fairtradefederation.org/what-is-fair-trade/#1531929001599-5cf1844f-1b5b