Is Coffee Production Sustainable? (Revealed)

Short Explanation: Coffee production has a negative impact on biodiversity due to the methods used for farming. Generally speaking, coffee production has a huge impact on health and the planet too.

The good news?

There are techniques and practices that can be used to make coffee production sustainable. These include safe irrigation, switching to pheromones, and utilizing the coffee bean waste as fertilizer.

As a grower, it is important to not only focus on the quality of coffee but also on the ways to reduce its impact on biodiversity.

For instance, reforestation alongside shade production in most cases makes coffee production in desired regions much more feasible.

In other words, sustainability is the key to achieving an ecologically balanced environment alongside successful coffee production.

But what is sustainability in coffee production and how can it be achieved?

You’re about to discover. So, keep reading!

Which Coffee is Best for the Environment? 

In my opinion, green coffee or organic coffee is the best for the environment.

Green coffee is made from unroasted coffee beans which is completely raw and is commonly used as a weight loss supplement.

Organic coffee is the best because it uses environment-friendly methods during its production process such as the use of natural fertilizer.

In general, the only way your coffee can be green or environmentally friendly is when the production process goes through certification standards.

Some of the keynotes to understand if your coffee is best for the environment is by analyzing whether or not your coffee beans are produced in the following ways:

  • washed and wet processed beans under shaded and natural canopies
  • farming methods that don’t come with the usage of harmful fertilizers and chemicals
  • if coffee is decaffeinated, it goes through an organic process
  • the packaging has to be compostable or recyclable 

So, keep in mind these points before deciding to purchase any coffee!

Watch this clip to know more about green coffee!

WATCH & LEARN: WHAT IS GREEN COFFEE?

Is Coffee Environmentally Sustainable?

In reality, coffee is responsible for driving at least 80% of tropical deforestation. It is reckoned that 37 out of 50 countries in the world with the highest deforestation rate are also coffee producers.

In that sense, coffee can’t be considered environmentally sustainable.

Traditional coffee farming does have some negative impact on the overall biodiversity, which is why it is a major concern in the world of climate change.

Some farming methods are more destructive than others, which is why in most cases coffee production is not included in the environmentally sustainable charter.

Coffee being produced in a monoculture process is quite detrimental to the environment. The reason is, the same nutrients are repeatedly pulled out from the soil to harvest coffee making the soil loses its natural ways of producing nutrients.

As a result, pesticides and herbicides come into the equation resulting in mass environmental damage.

How Do You Make Coffee More Sustainable?

One way to make coffee production sustainable is to farm them in shaded trees and to use farming methods that are environment-friendly.

There are tons of ways to produce coffee in an environment-friendly way. However, it doesn’t end there. As a grower/supplier of coffee, you also need to consider the packaging of the product to ensure its recyclability.

Also, the way coffee is roasted and brewed needs to be sustainable too!

In brief, here are other ways to make coffee production sustainable:

  • Choose Fairtrade
  • Shift to Reusable Cups
  • Compost Your Coffee Grounds

Fairtrade protect the farmers from coffee’s price volatility. If you’re growing organic coffee, you’ll get an additional incentive for it.

As we all know, the use of recyclable cups reduces environmental waste. So, making sure your coffee cups are reusable is a great contribution to reducing the impact of environmental waste on the planet.

Coffee grounds generate phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and copper which are good for the soil. It also acts as a natural insecticide barrier making your plants safe from insects.

So, there you go. Those are ways to make your coffee sustainable!

Is Starbucks Coffee Sustainable?

Starbucks, indeed, makes a great effort to make its coffee not only accessible to its consumers but also be equally sustainable for consumption.

All thanks to the separate research farms of Starbucks that put all the effort into finding the best green production formulas!

Although Starbucks did not start by sourcing the greenest coffees, it has initialized its effort to implement the environmental goals.

Bringing carbon neutral green coffee to the global table is now the mission of Starbucks. Cutting the carbon, waste and water footprint by half, the company is all open and ongoing with investing in green coffee farming and sources.

Research shows that the Starbucks Coffee merchandise, as a favorite to so many, has promised to conserve usage of water in processing green coffee by 2030 to at least 50%.

What’s Better for the Environment: Tea or Coffee?

Studies show that the carbon footprint of coffee is much higher than that of a cup of tea.

So, I’d say tea is better for now!

If you have the habit of drinking coffee at least twice a day, you’ll be looking at at least 20 kg of carbon dioxide at the end of the year. Similarly, three large lattes a day have the capacity of producing about 20 times more carbon footprint as per calculation.

The amount of carbon footprint in each drink depends on a variety of other factors too. If you like to drink your coffee with milk, that adds more carbon dioxide to the making.

Black tea or black coffee, in general, produces less carbon footprint and can be both viable options.

Also, depends on how much time you take to boil your water. Boiling excess water can also significantly add to the footprint.

Here’s my detailed comparison between tea and coffee. Check it out!

What is the Carbon Footprint of Coffee?

Coffee induces a carbon footprint.

In one espresso, you will be able to find a carbon footprint worth 0.28 kg.

That’s just one cup for your day. The average amount of coffee consumed around the world is two cups a day and more.

While making coffee induces a particular amount of carbon footprint, the traditional production of coffee leverages even more!

Growing just 1 kg of Arabica can lead to about 15 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent to greenhouse gases. 

So what could be slightly relieving news for us? If coffee is grown sustainably, the carbon footprint is minimized to 3 kg per kilogram of coffee. 

That means, if you are to make a nice brewed espresso that is sustainably produced, you’d be contributing to just 0.06 kg of a carbon footprint on your single cup. Now that sounds less terrible!

Is Coffee Causing Deforestation?

Unfortunately, yes.

The most consumed beverage in the world, coffee, is prominently contributing to altering the ecosystem of the world causing soil erosion and worst-case, deforestation.

So what is the main reason coffee production is such a large contributor to deforestation?

Well, the monocrop process is what makes it all so challenging for the environment to retain sustainability.

Since coffee production and consumption is nowhere to decrease in future, it is likely that it’d become hard to stop deforestation from happening if organic and healthy production practices aren’t adopted immediately worldwide.

Why is Sustainable Coffee Important?

Sustainable coffee is not just important for the environment but it is just as essential for ensuring farmers, workers and producers are fairly compensated.

Since coffee has high market demand, the production rate is pretty high too. Plus, sustainable coffee is the only solution for fighting deforestation. 

Without paying heed to the sustainable production of coffee crops, the species and the rainforests will experience critical danger leading to potential extinction.

To simply put, sustainability in the production of coffee is vital to save the planet, for farmers to generate a decent profit, and for everyone to enjoy rich and distinctive coffee flavors.

What are Ethical Coffee Brands?

Ethical coffee brands are coffees that are produced sustainably with a high emphasis on humane workers rights.

Bear in mind ethical coffee brands do not only mean ethical labelling. When you consider buying ethical brands, here are a few points to consider:

  • Fairtrade for the products
  • Labor treatment on the farmers
  • Carbon footprint of the production and operation

There are several coffee brands that meet the standard of ethical production and labelling. These brands, if supported globally, can help supply sustainable coffee brands to all coffee drinkers. 

Here’s a rundown of sustainable coffee brands on the market:

  • Equal Exchange
  • Kickapoo Coffee Roasters
  • Stumpdown Coffee
  • Blue Bottle Coffee
  • Sustainable Harvest Coffee
  • Green Mountain Coffee Roasters
  • Grounds for Change
  • Birds and Beans Coffee
  • Dama Coffee Roasting Company

The practices of sustainable brands always include eco-friendly and toxin-free processes. The use of organic fertilizers to grow coffee is one of the few reasons amongst all the others to take a step towards sustainability.

Furthermore, any ethical brand would always find a way to replace artificial stipulations with natural techniques.

Is the French Press Sustainable?

French press is an excellent investment.

Yes, a French press is the most sustainable way to make your coffee, and using it to make your coffee regularly is totally worth it.

When making coffee, the good side of using the French press is that it does not require much energy and is very waste friendly. You’ll have zero worries about waste when you’re done making coffee.

Check out this article to view my top choices for French press coffee makers!

Why Should You Buy Bird-friendly Coffee?

Bird-friendly coffee promotes quality habitat for wildlife.

Bird-friendly certified coffee has a standard eco-friendly seal that instantly guarantees sustainable production of coffee. 

If you see a bird-friendly seal, you’ll know that this coffee is derived from a holistic process of farming with a combination of biodiversity, foliage cover and tree height.

All of these indications are appropriate factors that convey the preservation of the environment. 

So, bird-friendly coffee it is!

In Conclusion

Coffee production can be sustainable if ethical practices are applied.

It’s going to take a lot of planning, research, and effort to achieve a sustainable coffee production process. At the end of the day, it’s all worth it as you are not just making good money but also helping in promoting a better planet for everyone.

Generally speaking, coffee growers/suppliers and consumers play a vital role in making coffee sustainable. As a coffee producer, you need to come up with ways to produce your coffee sustainably without spending too much, and as a consumer, you must help in reducing environmental waste.

Buying and supporting sustainable ways of producing coffee will always have a long term positive effect both on your health and the environment.

So, always look for ethical coffee brands!

Matt Marshall

As I learn more and more about coffee and coffee products I want to share all my learnings with you here on this website. I hope you find my articles useful and entertaining to read.

Read Next