It's difficult to imagine that one cup of coffee can make a huge impact on the environment. However, it can. Especially if the beans used to make that cup of coffee are Fair Trade, Shade Grown and Organic.
At least in the case of coffee, this has not been the case. Instead, the race by large corporations to capture the global coffee market has resulted in the corporations cutting worker's wages and benefits and funneling profits out of the coffee producing country rather than investing locally.
Growing coffee is backbreaking work. Many of the world's coffee farmers are used to living in poor conditions with little or no access to health care, and few educational opportunities for their children. While North Americans pay from anywhere from $4-$11 for a pound of conventional coffee, growers of that same coffee are paid as little as $.25 per pound. Coffee that has been certified Fair Trade, however, establishes a minimum fair price for the coffee farmer. The farmer is guaranteed at least $1.26 per lb. Coffee importers also provide a minimum amount of credit to farmers against future sales.
When you buy Fair Trade Certified coffee, you are ensuring a viable market and greater economic stability to the farmers and families growing your coffee. By cutting out the intermediary, profits go directly to the growers and producers. Families see greater economic opportunities, have access to better health care and can afford to send their children to school-maybe even high school and college-rather than needing them to help in the field.
In order to compete with the global market, many debt-ridden countries have resorted to "technifying" their coffee production by converting these forests to full-sun plantations in an effort to produce higher yields. This deforestation has reduced migrating songbird populations by as much as 25% and created an absence of natural predators, forcing the farmers to resort to pesticides to control pests and disease.
When the coffee you buy has been shade grown, you are protecting migrating bird habitat and encouraging traditional methods of coffee growing that are less damaging to the environment.
Organic coffee is produced without using synthetic pesticides-pesticides that damage not only the health of farmers and consumers, but have lasting negative impacts on the environment. As a general rule most shade-grown coffee is organic, and often times, organic coffee is shade-grown. Still, this isn't always the case so it's important to read labels carefully.
Shade Grown Logo: Not all shade grown (bird-friendly) logos are created equal. Currently, two "bird-friendly" logos make their certification criteria available to the public. One is ECO-OK, now known as "sustainable coffee certified" by the Rainforest Alliance. The other is a bird-friendly logo certified by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center.
Organic Logo: For coffee that is certified organic, look for the USDA Organic logo.