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8 Sustainable Coffee Providers So You Can Have Your Caffeine Guilt-Free

By Kristi Pahr

According to USA Today, 83 percent of American adults drink coffee, spending greater than $13 billion a year. With such a lucrative industry, you might think that the producers and farmers who provide coffee beans to the world are, if not wealthy, at least comfortable, but sadly you’d be mistaken. 

Since coffee is produced in poor countries and consumed in wealthy countries, the farmers are subject to unstable economic environments. Coffee prices can dip to as low as .50/pound, and the shift to industrialist farming practices has increased the economic burden on small farmers and created the necessity for a farming monoculture in many coffee-producing communities.

Not only do modern coffee practices have a huge economic impact, the ecological impact is also severe. In the 1970s coffee production shifted from primarily shade-grown, to the conventional method of large, open, treeless plots, similar to the large wheat and soybean fields we see in the US. 

Robert Rice, a research scientist at the Smithsonian Migratory Birds Center and a co-author on a paper discussing the ecological impact of coffee consumption told the Huffington Post, “We know now from decades of high-input industrial agriculture in the U.S. that by shifting away from traditional practices, you lose an incredible amount of topsoil, you contaminate waterways and you make yourself much more vulnerable to changes in weather.”