What’s in your coffee cup? Organic, shade grown, fairtrade coffee I hope. Why does it matter? Let’s start with the fairtrade portion. Fairtrade means that the farmers that work that land all year, for this one crop, to feed their family and protect the land are actually making a livable wage. Large corporate coffee sellers make their money but taking advantage of small farmers that do not belong to co-ops. By paying around $5.00 a lb. for your coffee these farmers will be lucky to make as little as 60 cents per lb. (Fairtrade is currently paying $1.25 per lb. minimum). Where do you suppose the rest of that money goes? These farmers have small plots of land and simply want to feed and cloth their families. They’re not concerned with the latest smart phone, Wii game, Nike shoes or any of that, they just want to educate their children and have food, clothing and shelter. When prices drop then these farmers may clear cut their land to add more coffee or even worse stop growing coffee and use the land for grazing or growing drugs. Coffee tends to grow in biodiversity hot spots. Keeping these lands in place and protected benefits us all (especially bird lovers, I’ll get to that.)
Next, let’s look at organic and shade grown coffee. The amount of petrochemicals used on non-organic crops is astounding. This adds to the already large carbon footprint from coffee due to the distance it has to travel. By keeping nasty petrochemicals off the land it protects the environment and saves the farmer money. By using shade growing techniques the farmer can raise food crops to sell or feed their family with. When the biodiversity and forests are saved bird watchers also benefit. Where do you think those beautiful birds that grace us with their presence during the summer go in the winter? Many of them travel to Central and South America to live in the rain forests. When those safe havens disappear, so do the birds.
Americans are one of the largest consumers of coffee. What we drink can make a difference. Let’s help fight poverty, protect the environment and biodiversity. To learn more about this check out this great article where I found much of this information. Quit Drinking Corporate Coffee.