Coffee drinking can be a "feel good" experience if you buy or consume coffee with an eco-label addressing one or more social & environmental challenges within the industry.
Most coffee is grown by small family farmers in remote tropical regions, far from markets. They lack market access, and must often sell their harvest to middlemen for a fraction of its value, continuing the cycle of poverty/subsistence for the grower, his workers and his family.
Coffee growing practices damage eco-systems by requiring intensive use of pesticides and fertilizers. New, higher yielding coffee varieties grow in full sun, reducing forest shade and species bio-diversity especially among birds (as much as 97% fewer birds in a given area).
Here is a list of the most meaningful eco-labels found on coffee:
This coffee is grown under conditions that support healthy bird habitats, under a tree canopy with a minimum of 40 percent shade, and grown organically. This is one of the most rigorous requirements. More info…
Fair Trade Certified
These coffee farmers and workers are guaranteed an above-market minimum price of $1.26 per pound (or $1.41 per pound if organic) and bought directly from farmer-owned cooperatives and buyers. Coffee crops use soil and water conservation measures to reduce the use of agrochemicals. MoreInfo... (in the US, there is http://transfair.org)
These coffee crops use integrated pest management systems to reduce agrochemicals, as well as water-, soil-, and wildlife-habitat conservation measures. The farm workers are paid salaries & benefits better than the local legal minimum wage. More info…
To locate Rainforest Alliance certified coffee, visit the Rainforest Alliance, an environmental advocacy and certification organization. To learn more about what the Rainforest Alliance label means, visit Eco-labels, our free labeling Web site.
USDA Certified Organic
Coffee farmers use renewable resources and conserve the use of soil and water, and grow the coffee without using synthetic fertilizer or highly persistent pesticides. Crops do not use genetic engineering or ionizing radiation and are processed and handled separately from conventional coffee. More info… (Organic Consumers Association)