How to Choose an Eco-friendly Coffee Brand

by Mama Loves A Drink

A Guest Post from Ben at Eco-Friendly Coffee

Coffee is a popular drink enjoyed by millions around the world. Choosing an eco-friendly coffee brand can help reduce your carbon footprint while supporting the farmers and local communities that are often negatively affected by the coffee industry.

To help you make the right decision when selecting a coffee brand, this guide will cover the most important aspects of choosing a sustainable coffee brand – from certifications to other sustainable practices you should be aware of.

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3 cups of milky coffee - How to choose Eco Friendly Coffee

How to choose an eco-friendly coffee brand

Choosing an eco-friendly coffee brand can be confusing. There is lots of information to consider, especially with the unfortunate tactics of “greenwashing” by some coffee suppliers. Don’t let this put you off, there are some excellent resources available to help you choose an eco-friendly coffee product that meets your needs.

Here are a few tips to help you choose the best option for what matters most to you.

First, check what environmental certifications the coffee beans hold. Organic, Bird Friendly and Rain Forest Alliance are common examples of coffee that has met set criteria for a range of environmental standards.

Next, look at the company’s purchasing policies. Fair trade practices either certified through the FairTrade label organized on an individual basis ensuring that the coffee farmers are paid a fair price for their crop 

Is the packaging sustainable? Some companies only use recycled materials and others have specific green packaging requirements. It’s always better to employ reusable materials where possible.

Finally, consider how much energy the coffee production process uses. Does the brand mitigate its energy consumption? This can be through renewable energy or a carbon-neutral incentive.

What does it mean to be an eco-coffee brand?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the definition of “eco-friendly” will vary depending on the company or product in question. 

However, there are some key principles that all eco-coffee brands should adhere to if they want to be considered environmentally friendly. These principles include promoting sustainable farming practices (such as water and waste management), maintaining a high level of worker rights and a liveable wage, and ensuring that their products are packaged in ways that reduce waste.

The principles that should be adhered to by an eco coffee brand are social responsibility and environmental responsibility.

Social responsibility means that the company helps to improve the lives of people who are vulnerable or who have been marginalized especially on smaller farms where workers are the most at risk. 

Environmental responsibility means that the company takes measures to protect the environment. This includes reduced greenhouse emissions, protecting local waterways and protecting biodiversity, which typically is covered with true shade-grown coffee under the Bird Friendly certification.

When choosing an eco-friendly coffee brand, it’s important to consider both the environmental impact of the product itself, how it treats all workers along the coffee supply chain and the overall brand philosophy. 

Harvesting of coffee beans

How does the coffee brand source their coffee?

A coffee brand can source its coffee beans from different regions around the world. They take into account the climate and altitude of each bean farm when selecting which beans to use in their products. The beans are then roasted and blended to create the desired flavour profile.

When it comes to sourcing coffee, many eco-brands focus on ethical and sustainable practices. 

They try to source coffee from small farmers who are using sustainable farming practices and ensuring the farmers get paid a liveable wage, while also ensuring there is no child labour and exploitation that has been reported several times within the coffee industry.

This means that the coffee beans are grown in a way that doesn’t damage the environment and everyone that has a hand in the supply chain, taking the coffee from the farm to your cup, isn’t negatively affected in the process.

What certifications to look for in eco-friendly coffee?

There are several eco-certifications that coffee brands can require their farms to maintain. You’ll often see these logos printed on the front of their packaging.

The issue here is that it can be extremely difficult to really understand how much a certain certification helped a certain area related to eco-friendly coffee production.

Since sustainable coffee is a relatively new concept in the industry, there is often limited data on the actual improvements made under certifications. 

On top of that, there’s a lot of ‘greenwashing’ but large corporations make their products seem more sustainable than they really are.

With that being said, certifications are the best weapon we have to keep brands accountable and our purchasing actions as consumers help to define what the industry looks like.

So, what are the main certifications and why do they matter? We are going to look at 4 certifications and a brief overview of them.

If you want to understand them in much more detail, check out the in-depth guide to eco-friendly coffee certifications.

What is Bird Friendly Certification?

Considered the most effective certification for environmental concerns. This is due to the strict rules farms have to align with.

To be certified under Bird Friendly, your farms need to first hold the USDA Organic Certification, so it’s a 2-in-1 deal.

Bird Friendly Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center

The main downside of Bird Friendly is that these strict regulations mean smaller farms aren’t able to meet the requirements and thus can’t be labelled as Bird Friendly. It’s not an easy logo to maintain, but that’s why it is so effective in improving environmental issues with coffee farms.

It’s quite a rare label to see, especially when compared to several other labels on this list.

If you’re concerned about the environment above all else, this is the certification to find.

What Does USDA Organic Certification Mean?

Unlike others on this list, USDA Organic Certification is enforced by the United States Government. 

USDA Organic

Many products are policed to USDA standards, not just coffee and the overview is that products are grown and processed without the use of prohibited pesticides and synthetic fertilizers that are harmful to the local environment where the coffee is grown.

The main improvements the USDA Organic logo can claim are improvements to the health of the soil which helps crops maintain a healthy yield over time, the management of pests and the processing standards of the roasting process.

To be labelled as Organic by the USDA, at least 95% of coffee must pass the certification requirements.

What is Rainforest Alliance?

The Rainforest Alliance is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1987. Its mission is to promote sustainable forest management and protect rainforests around the world. 

Rainforest alliance logo

They do this by working with companies, governments, and other organizations to create policies and programs that will help preserve forests. 

They also work to educate people about the importance of rainforests and the threats they face.

Rainforest Alliance has seen overall mixed and contradictory results but has had a positive impact overall on a global scale.

What Does Fairtrade Certified Mean?

Fairtrade is a trade certification program that aims to improve the conditions of workers in developing countries. It is one of the most recognizable labels you’ll find on coffee.

It does this by requiring that coffee growers and exporters adhere to certain standards, including paying their workers a fair wage, providing them with safe working conditions, and providing social and health benefits.

In order to be certified as Fairtrade, coffee must meet certain quality and environmental criteria. It provides a price premium for coffee farmers compared to the conventional industry.

This certification has had its effectiveness questioned over the years, but has been crucial in the past to maintain coffee prices during the collapse in the industry during the 2000s.

Does the brand do anything to mitigate energy consumption and workers’ rights?

In order to choose an eco-friendly coffee brand, you first need to decide what you’re looking for.

Do you want a brand that uses less energy in its production process, or do you care more about the environmental impacts on the local communities, or even the worker rights and exploited farmers?

Most eco-friendly coffee brands improve all these factors at once, but some do specific aspects better than others.

Workers on a coffee farm

Some eco-friendly coffee brands go beyond simply reducing their energy consumption – they also work to mitigate other environmental impacts of coffee production. For example, some brands work to reduce deforestation or help farmers improve their farming practices without depleting natural resources.

It’s important to research the specific eco-friendly initiatives of the brands you’re interested in, as not all of them have implemented all of these initiatives. 

However, investing time in investigating which brands are doing their part to protect the environment and the workers throughout the supply chain will help you make a more informed decision when choosing an eco-friendly coffee.

How does the brand handle waste management?

When choosing an eco-friendly coffee brand, it is important to look for one that takes waste management seriously. 

Some brands have dedicated programs in place to help them reduce their environmental impact. 

Others work to find ways to reuse or recycle materials that would otherwise be wasted. It’s important to choose a brand that you can trust will take care of the environment while providing delicious coffee.

Final Thoughts on Eco-Friendly Coffee

There are many reasons why a family should choose eco coffee brands. For one, eco coffee is environmentally friendly. 

It takes less energy to produce a cup of eco coffee than it does to produce a cup of regular coffee. Second, many eco coffee brands are Fair Trade certified, this means that the farmers who grow the beans receive a fair price for their products. Finally, many eco coffee brands are ethically produced. This means that the workers who process the beans are treated fairly and do not suffer from hazardous working conditions.

In the end, it does come down to personal choice in what matters to you most.

But the important thing to keep in mind is that every sustainable purchase you make sends these brands that how our coffee makes it from the farm to our cups matters to us. 

Our coffee habits have a significant impact on how the market shifts towards a sustainable coffee industry.

Guest Bio

Eco-friendly Coffee is an educational resource that informs users about sustainable coffee. Our goal is to make buying coffee that is truly eco friendly as simple, efficient, and cost-effective as possible.

Our content focuses on providing actionable steps a coffee lover can take to reduce their environmental footprint and prevent social and ethical issues through the production of coffee.

Coffee Lovers, pop back over here to see our complete collection of educational coffee articles, recipes and coffee-making gear mamas will love!

All logos are copyright to the respective organisations mentioned in this article.

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