by Susanna Parker

While coffee may not seem like the typical way to green your daily life, there are several easily available options. Is the coffee organic, is it bird-friendly, rainforest friendly, fairly traded, or water processed? The variety of terms can be overwhelming, but there are a few easy ways to find an environmentally friendly coffee that’s right for you.

So do a little research, grab your reusable mug and fill it with an environmentally friendly coffee.

One common label to find on environmentally friendly coffees is the Fair Trade Certified Mark. This label signifies that the coffee was purchased from growers who have met the social, environmental, and economic standards set by the Fair Trade Certification. Fair Trade USA describes four main standards for farm workers:

  • Economic Development — predetermined community development premiums are placed on every sale, and that money goes to the community to aid its economic development;
  • Empowerment — workers are trained in areas such as health and freedom from discrimination, they are empowered to determine how community development premiums will be used in their community, and they are able to effectively represent themselves and negotiate for better conditions;
  • Social Responsibility — International Labor Conventions are obeyed, child labor is prohibited, and health and safety measures are established to reduce workplace injuries;
  • Environmental Stewardship — farms operate using best practices for sustainability, including practices to reduce soil erosion, proper waste management including limiting waste generated, eliminating the use of highly toxic chemicals, efficient usage of water resources, and the maintenance of buffer zones for protected areas.

USDA Certified Organic is another common label. This signifies that the growers have followed strict regulations set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including eliminating the use of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides; crop rotation; soil fertility management; and watershed protection.

Another criteria to consider when buying coffee is bird friendliness. Created by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, Bird-Friendly (Shade Grown) coffee comes from plants cultivated amongst and beneath trees and other plant species, rather than on ground cleared specifically for the crop. Created to protect the habitats of migratory birds, the regulations are strict, but benefit the farmer as well as the birds; polyculture (or having more than one species in the same growing area) helps to prevent pests and enrich the soil.

There are a lot of options for environmentally friendly coffee beans, and none are inherently superior to the others. Choose your beans based on what matters to you; just make sure to check for the proper labels!

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Susanna Parker is a recent college graduate and volunteer with Bethesda Green. Her interest in sustainability leads her to look for green solutions in uncommon places.

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