When looking at sustainability, it can feel a bit overwhelming deciding where to begin, as there are many ways to work toward your personal and corporate sustainability goals. The United Nations Department of Economic Affairs has established 17 goals for sustainability, all of which are important. A number of these are also tied to trees and the Arbor Day Foundation’s vision to help others understand and use trees as a solution to many of the global issues we face today.
However, let’s keep it simple here and consider the sustainability of a product that many of us consume every day: coffee. That warm, delicious pick-me-up is having a significant impact on our environment, people, and wildlife. And a shift in our purchasing habits needs to happen. You can make a positive impact by simply choosing coffee for your home or business that is sustainably sourced and shade-grown.
The Sustainable Choice
Sustainably sourced coffees often come with certifications (Fair Trade, USDA Organic, Rainforest Alliance, Bird Friendly) that can help you narrow down your selections. However, it’s also important to understand the sourcing and purchasing practices of the company or organization you’re considering buying coffee from. This is especially true when looking for a wholesale coffee partner or when purchasing coffee in larger quantities.
The Arbor Day Coffee program puts our standards for sourcing as a top priority because we are dedicated to the benefits of preserving and planting trees.
Read: What is Sustainable Coffee Production
Will environmentally friendly coffees cost more? More than likely, the answer is yes. The cost may be slightly more than what you’ve become accustomed to paying for coffee, but these low prices come with a cost — a destructive ripple effect on the environment. When you are choosing a sustainably sourced coffee, your dollars are keeping shade-grown farming in business…and so much more.
Here’s why that is important. The process coffee goes through from seed to cup involves a supply chain made up of many people. From the farm all the way to the exporting center, these processes are mostly done by hand. The demand for coffee is high, and that demand continues to grow year after year.
Read: Where Does Your Coffee Come From?
Many coffee farms are located within rain forests. The traditional way of growing coffee is under the canopy of trees, however the increased demand is forcing farmers to make the difficult choice to cut down trees to make more room for more coffee to be planted. This practice of deforestation may increase the crop yield for the farmer in the short term, but the high demand and potential decrease in coffee quality, as a result, lowers the price per pound paid to the farmer — which is already low to begin with. And that’s just the beginning of the ripple effect.
The Impact You Make
By choosing shade-grown coffee, you are:
- Preventing deforestation. Farmers are encouraged to not only protect the tree canopy but also participate in reforestation efforts. The goal being to make their land more valuable with trees than without.
- Protecting wildlife habitat. There are many species that call the rain forest home. By protecting their habitat, you are protecting a very precious ecosystem.
- Intercepting rainfall. The tree canopy reduces runoff and temporarily stores water on the leaf and bark surfaces. The stored water eventually makes its way to the ground or evaporates.
- Decreasing land degradation and establishing nutrient-rich soil. When soil is rich in nutrients, fewer additional nutrients and fertilizers need to be added to the soil. Trees are an integral part of keeping soil nutrients intact.
- Building stronger communities. When farmers maintain the tree canopy, they are not only producing delicious coffee. They may also decide to grow other crops as well. Intercropping helps farmers and communities bring in a more steady stream of income year-round. This positively impacts education, healthcare, food resources, and working conditions.
- Cleaning the air and sequestering carbon. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and pollutants and release oxygen back into the air.
Read: How Cattle, Coffee, Trees, and People Can Thrive Together
Join the Movement
The Arbor Day Coffee program is truly an advocate for change…but we need you. What if shade-grown coffee was seen as more important than paying the lowest price? What if we truly thought about which coffee companies are a part of the solution vs. part of the problem?
I love this quote from Hellen Keller: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Let’s make the switch together and start working toward meeting your sustainability goals. Contact the Arbor Day Foundation coffee program today if your organization is looking to make a change: Learn More.