The True Nature Of Coffee's Impact
Today, there’s coffee for every caffeine-dependent person out there. We live in an age where we can afford the luxury of choice. Be it a latte, cappuccino, espresso, or any of the numerous ways to drink coffee, we’re free to choose one based on our predilections. Although, the path to achieving this degree of accessibility was not straightforward. It’s been one problem after another. The first of which was creating a supply chain, followed by the challenge of driving industrial volumes, after which the focus shifted to accessibility, and the most recent one is quality. But perhaps we’ve ignored one of the most important complications; the impact of the coffee industry on the environment.
Sustainability in the coffee industry would entail an ecosystem that meets the coffee needs of today without compromising future generations. The impact of coffee has two facets; environmental and social. Environmental impact is the cumulative effect of the coffee industry on the environment. This includes the resources required to grow coffee, impact on biodiversity, processing, import-export, and packaging. Social impact is how the farmers & producers are affected during coffee production, and whether or not they are treated fairly.
Coffee Production & Farming
Coffee farming requires a lot of resources, and the most prominent one is water. The average footprint of a 125 ml cup of coffee is 140 liters of water. As of today, most coffee-producing farms don’t operate with sophisticated water systems and pipelines, which means that valuable drinking water has to be used for production. Once completed, post-process polluted water re-enters the drinking water streams. This harms people, the environment, and the indigenous flora & fauna. The farms themselves have a negative impact on biodiversity because the majority of them practice monoculture farming and the increased reliance on pesticides further degrade the local environment.
Packaging & logistics
Packaging and transit also contribute heavily toward the large carbon footprint of coffee production. But this is easier to fix and there has already been a constant improvement over the last decade. Innovation in packing materials and improvement in energy efficiency for transportation are proving to make a difference in the footprint. Slowly but surely, this part of the supply chain is making a change for the better. But packaging also happens after the beans reach their destined country. Depending on the product, brand, and consumer, the impact on the environment can vary to a large degree.
With the rising popularity of single-use products like coffee pods, the difficulty of adopting sustainable practices gets increasingly difficult. Some coffee brands pander to our innate desire for convenience, and yet the convenience is minimal while the consequential impact is massive. To read more about how convenience is killing coffee, click here.
Some coffee subscriptions add to the problem by introducing an extra layer of logistics that can only be described as detrimental to the environment. Coffee pods take it even further. They’re small, individually packaged coffee grounds capable of dispensing a single serving of stale coffee. Following this model multiplies the carbon footprint for every cup of coffee. That’s why consumers have a role to play too. It’s one that involves understanding the consequences of each choice and making the right one.
During coffee production, most farmers are financially handicapped. They rely on the proceeds of their previous harvest, and usually, these funds have to last for up to a year. Many decades ago, farmers in coffee-producing countries could provide for their health and education needs. But the same can’t be said today. Farmers are subjected to a decline in income each year, and yet the production cost moseys on the upward trend. As a result, 80% of the 25M coffee farmers across the world live below the poverty line. Today their lives revolve around making ends meet and supporting their families.
The communities of many coffee farmers hang by a tapered thread. Most coffee-producing countries lack the social infrastructure to benefit their producers, and in this strained market, that leaves the farmers in a precarious situation. Their pockets have to be tightened within an inch of their life just to make sure they live long enough to see the next harvest. Many farmers contemplate switching crops to replace coffee, and some go through with it. But this decision isn’t an easy one to make, it demands constant work and a massive overhead with no real revenue for the next few years. It’s a vicious cycle. So many farms that produce beautiful, unique, and delicious coffee run out of business during these times. Economic sustainability strongly influences social sustainability. The latter would crumble without the former.
Social sustainability is about access to housing, food, education, healthcare, and other essentials. When coffee prices fall, these basic necessities become less attainable. Farmers prioritize production costs over themselves to ensure that the harvest happens as planned. It’s one of many injustices they face. Gender inequality and child labor are some of the others.
Female coffee farmers don’t have the same access to resources that their male counterparts do, and as a consequence, their production volumes suffer considerably. With equal opportunity, their yields would be 20-30% higher, which is estimated to create an additional 30 billion cups of coffee per year. Child labor is also prevalent in many coffee-producing countries. Children are typically designated for cherry-picking and other menial tasks. They spend their growing years occupied with physical labor instead of education and mental growth.
Improving The Sustainability Of Coffee
The journey to sustainability is long and winding. The environmental and social complications that currently plague the coffee industry should fade with each passing year. We have more access to information, we know what happens at the source, and we’re given the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of coffee farmers as well as our own. But for that to happen, we have to prioritize making the right choice.
Buy Green Coffee Beans
The most direct way to enable a healthy coffee ecosystem is to source raw coffee beans directly from the farm. Doing so bypasses many stages in the supply chain. Packaging and transit requirements are significantly lower, and your beans would be as fresh as they come. This also eliminates wasteful post-transit brand packaging like coffee pods and subscription boxes. Already, the footprint of your coffee is measurably reduced, and since we’re sourcing raw coffee straight from the farm, we can make sure that all the proceeds end up with the farmers instead of corporations and middlemen. Besides, roasting coffee at home is super easy and it results in a cup that’s far superior in terms of quality, freshness, and personalization. Here’s our home coffee roaster, and here’s the guide to creating your perfect roast.
Have Direct Connection With Farmers
The coffee from each region differs vastly, and it’s worth trying them all for their unique flavor profiles. But developing connections with farmers from all over the world is too much effort for one individual. That’s why at Bunafr, we’ve done most of the work for you. We’ve partnered with some of the most amazing producers in countries like Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Yemen, and many more. We’re constantly creating more value for both farmers and consumers in hopes of creating a world where coffee is not just at its peak but is also environmentally and socially sustainable.
Our initiative has a place for you, and it’s stronger with you. This is the best place to start your coffee journey anew, with the best green coffee this world has to offer.