Starting the day with a cup of coffee is a ritual for millions of people worldwide. But, as a coffee-lover, have you ever thought about the impact that producing this beloved beverage has on the environment?
Deforestation and water pollution are just some of the concerns surrounding the coffee industry’s sustainability. However, many farmers and companies are making efforts to change that. In this article, we will delve into the topic of sustainable coffee production and the steps being taken to protect the environment.
When it comes to farming, deforestation is often a symptom, as farmers and corporations will clear certain forested land to make way for their fields and plantations. These areas are often full of wildlife, and destroying those habitats to grow cash crops like coffee is incredibly damaging to the environment.
These efforts contribute to climate change which continues to be a major problem for us as a society. To reduce the impact that growing coffee has on the environment, many farmers are using techniques such as planting shade-grown coffee, which is where the plantations are essentially grown underneath the canopy of rainforests instead of clearing those trees and minimizing wildlife habitats.
Not only does it protect the homes of many at-risk or endangered species, but it also helps to preserve the quality of the soil. As well as this, shade-grown coffees have been said to produce a very high-quality coffee bean, meaning there are very few downsides to this.
Reducing Pesticide Usage
The use of pesticides and even some types of man-made fertilizers can have a seriously negative impact on the environment. While these can help to keep crops safe from pests that may try to devour them, the pesticides that are used can be unforgiving to other creatures or plants.
Chemicals that are designed to kill pests can then affect other animals, such as any that might eat those pests after they have died. This can poison those animals and can even pollute nearby waterways. This is because the rain and irrigation systems that are used to water the crops can wash those pesticides away, which then soak into the soil and eventually drain off into rivers and lakes.
Farmers can reduce this damage by either simply stopping their usage of pesticides and switching to planting companion crops that can attract or even deter pests from the area instead.
Fair Trading Practices
Another important aspect of sustainability is the way in which these farms are run and how farmers themselves are treated by both the companies that own the farms and those that buy from them. Farmers, especially in developing countries, are often paid poorly for their produce, making it very hard for them to make a living.
When someone is paid poorly for their produce, they often have to consider other ways to cut costs, and that can mean using unsustainable farming methods or face losing their livelihood. Fair trade coffee, chocolate, soy, and other products from these countries are regulated by dedicated fair trade organizations. These groups not only help to ensure that farmers are being respected and paid fairly, but they also offer training to these farmers and give support for implementing sustainable farming methods.
Improving Supply Chains
The way in which these products are delivered around the world also impacts the environment. The further away you are buying products from, the larger your carbon footprint is going to be, and so when it comes to supplying countries around the world with products that can only be grown in certain climates, it’s important to find ways in which you can reduce the carbon production when transporting them.
Improving the sustainability of supply chains is essential such as using electric vehicles for shipping and making fewer trips to distribute them around the world. Reducing the usage of planes for these deliveries can help drastically, and choosing to ship products via cargo ships due to them producing lower levels of greenhouse gases. However, they still produce these gases, which can damage our atmosphere.
Luckily, many companies today understand the importance of sustainability and will do everything they can to improve their supply chains, which can improve public opinion and even reduce costs in some cases, too.
Saving Power And Water
The energy and water used to grow certain crops can also be unsustainable if not managed properly. Certain activities will use power during the growing process. This includes irrigation systems which require a significant amount of power to pump and distribute water to the crops, and processing systems, which need the power to remove and dry the beans.
Beans will also be roasted before being packaged and sent off to be sold. This process naturally requires a lot of energy, too. When it comes to the irrigation of these crops, this will also use a lot of water, too. Saving water is a sustainable pursuit, too.
While water won’t run out on Earth by overwatering crops, it can be bad for the environment, and it can also deplete reserves, putting strain on water companies that also need to supply water to people for drinking and other things. Catching and using rainwater, for example, is a good option for reducing the reliance on water companies and, in turn, being more sustainable.