Limiting climate change, farming sustainably and protecting the world’s most valuable ecosystems are all critical issues affecting the coffee industry. Agriculture is responsible for more than 90% of tropical deforestation, with coffee plantations playing a role in the destruction of forest habitats in tropical countries.
Coffee farming can also be extremely thirsty business, with the Water Footprint Network estimating that it takes approximately 140 litres of water to produce a single 125ml cup of coffee.
Meeting the challenges impacting coffee farming and the global coffee supply chain is no easy feat, but there are several initiatives that the industry is implementing to move towards a better, more ecologically sustainable future. Today, we look at these initiatives and ask what a truly green coffee industry looks like.
Implementing agroforestry methods
Many coffee producers are implementing sustainable farming practices that prioritise environmental conservation, including agroforestry, where coffee plants are grown under a canopy of trees, reducing soil erosion and promoting biodiversity.
Agroforestry has been shown in some cases to be more biologically productive, more profitable and more sustainable than monocultures, benefitting both farmers and the natural world.
This approach is a great way to reintroduce forestry in areas that have been deforested to make space for coffee plantations, whilst at the same time helping farmers continue to generate high quality, high yield coffee plants. It’s even been rumoured to taste better than conventionally produced coffee!
Conserving water with improved processes
Water is a precious resource, and the coffee industry is taking steps to reduce water usage and protect water sources. Efficient irrigation systems, water recycling, and the implementation of wet mill technologies are being adopted to minimise water waste and pollution.
It’s estimated that 2 billion cups of coffee are consumed globally every single day, and at the rate of 140 litres per cup, this means an extraordinary 280 billion litres of water is needed to cater for the needs of a single day of consumption. Reducing this amount and doing more with waste water products is critical to reducing the impact of coffee on our natural world.
Reducing the carbon footprint of growing coffee
Though reducing water and encouraging greater biodiversity in ecosystems is extremely important for the coffee industry, the most immediate threat to normal existence for humans and fauna around the world, is climate change. Reducing the carbon footprint of the coffee supply chain is a challenge for today, that affects everyone’s tomorrow.
Methods being utilised by growers to reduce the amount of carbon ejected into the atmosphere are many. Coffee manufacturers are transitioning to renewable energy sources, optimising transportation and logistics to reduce emissions, and promoting the use of eco-friendly packaging materials.
Some coffee companies are even implementing carbon offset programs to counterbalance their greenhouse gas emissions. Working to introduce shade-grown coffee and agroforestry techniques to existing plantations will also help regenerate forests that naturally absorb carbon dioxide from the environment, furthering this effort.
Utilising Fairtrade certification to drive positive change
Fairtrade certification plays a significant role in safeguarding the environment. Fairtrade standards require coffee producers to adhere to strict environmental criteria, including banning harmful chemicals and promoting sustainable farming practices.
Certification also includes the payment of an environmental premium. This additional sum of money goes directly to farmers and their communities, enabling them to invest in environmental conservation projects. It supports initiatives such as reforestation, watershed protection, and wildlife habitat restoration, fostering a more sustainable coffee landscape.
By promoting sustainable agriculture, Fairtrade ensures that coffee production is carried out in harmony with nature, protecting ecosystems, and preserving biodiversity. Fairtrade certification holds great weight with businesses and consumers, and is a great way for those buyers not directly involved in the coffee manufacturing process to support the move towards more sustainable farming.
At Connect Vending, we work with Fairtrade certified coffee suppliers, helping to do our part by supporting farmers to grow more sustainably.
The coffee industry’s shift towards sustainability is evident through the adoption of eco-friendly practices and the growing adherence to Fairtrade principles. Through sustainable farming practices, water conservation, carbon footprint reduction, and the protection of environments, the coffee industry is striving to ensure a greener future.
By choosing sustainably produced coffee and supporting Fairtrade, consumers can contribute to the preservation of ecosystems, the well-being of coffee farmers, and the enjoyment of a truly sustainable cup of coffee.
There is some distance to go to ensure the future of coffee is truly green, but the coffee manufacturers of the world have never been in a better place to make the changes needed.