I drink extra hot, low-fat, double-shot lattes in my own mug. For years I've forked-out three bucks and change for my fair trade, organic, bird- and farmer-friendly caffeine fix.
Derek with Canterbury Coffee answers your questions about eco-friendlier java!
What's with conventional coffee?
Conventional coffee plantations are monocultures with large environmental footprints because cleared land is unsustainable without heavy fertilizer and pesticide use. Conventional coffees are "cash crops" — nothing else grows alongside.
Why does eco-friendly coffee cost more?
There are significant costs associated with organic certification at the farm and supplier level. To remain competitive, some of these are passed to the consumer.
Conventional farming produces higher yields with chemical fertilizers. Premiums increase the organic growers' bottom-lines. Farmers can make about the same profit with a lower yield.
For a roaster or supplier, the premium for organic or eco-friendly coffee is approximately 20 to 30 cents extra per pound of green beans.
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How can I identify fair trade coffee?
Many small coffee companies have developed their own certifications, such as Direct Fair Trade or Direct Trade. But without third party verification, the onus is on consumers to decide if they feel these direct trade companies are walking the walk.
What eco-labels should coffee drinkers look for?
The most important certification is organic. Most organic farms are inherently bird-friendly and have shade cover. Fair trade has to do with fair labour practices like gender equity, working conditions and ensuring a liveable wage for farm workers. It does not touch on farming methods. There are conventional farms that use pesticides and are certified fair-trade.
What does an eco-friendlier coffee plantation look like?
Sustainable plantations are biodiverse. They have food or other crops growing alongside coffee plants. Many have "bird corridors"—long strips of untouched land between fields that allow birds, insects, and other wildlife to safely travel from forest canopies to lower altitudes.
How does eco-friendlier coffee benefit farmers?
Organic farming is healthier for consumers, but the biggest benefit is to farmers because there's no exposure to chemical pesticides used in conventional coffee growing.
Is your morning coffee eco-friendly?
Comment on this blog to win a Canterbury Coffee prize package. Note: the draw has closed but congrats to Ruth of Courtenay, BC!
Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green