Climate Change Affects Us All
The science is in, and climate change is expected to have a wide array of disruptive effects in the coming years. Some of these may be unavoidable, but we may be able to mitigate other unpleasant surprises by taking action now. Many concerned coffee producers are doing just that. Learn more about how coffee farmers are helping the planet.
On the face of it, coffee cultivation is beneficial for the environment. The coffee plant is an evergreen shrub, which makes it a year-round resource for carbon sequestration.
However, not all coffee beans are grown in a sustainable manner. By nature, coffee plants are shade-dwelling, naturally occurring in the understory of lush rainforests. For a long time, coffee was grown exclusively beneath forest canopy, and was allowed to mature naturally, as it had been for centuries.
But sometime during the 1970s commercial coffee growers decided to take matters into their own hands, creating strains of coffee that could be grown in full sunlight, with the aid of fertilizers, pesticides, and other “miracles of modern science.”
Yields increased, but this new method of coffee cultivation had some serious drawbacks. As previously mentioned, growing coffee in full sunlight requires the use of industrial chemicals, which are generally harmful to the environment, the people who work with them, and the wildlife exposed to them.
Not only that, but creating the space needed to farm coffee in full sunlight necessitated the clear-cutting of rainforest land in many parts of the world, depriving many insects and animals of their natural habitats.
All in all, those increased yields came at a high cost, but because that cost didn’t show up on a balance sheet and was difficult to quantify, some coffee makers were content to ignore it.
A Return to Form
But that’s changing. There’s a new trend toward sustainable agriculture in the coffee world. Coffee labeled as shade-grown or bird-friendly fetches a premium among consumers in the know. Of course, this renewed interest in the old way of growing coffee isn’t merely about profit margins. Coffee producers have a vested interest in environmental preservation. Left unchecked, climate change could completely change how and where coffee can be grown.
Why Shade-Grown Coffee Matters
By producing coffee in the traditional shade-grown way, coffee producers are taking an environmental threat and turning it into an ally in the battle against climate change.
Shade-grown coffee plantations increase biodiversity by providing a welcoming habitat for a host of birds, bats, reptiles, insects, and native flora. This species-richness is great for the animals, but it helps the coffee producers, too. Birds provide pest control. Bees and moths lend a hand with pollination, enhancing fruit set on coffee plants. And of course, all of the animals are happy to donate fertilizer.
Shade-grown production methods also reduce the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides and makes organic coffee easier to grow. With Mother Nature on your side, you don’t need all those chemicals!
Vote With Your Coffee Cup
If you’re a coffee lover, then you probably know that shade-grown coffee is a bit more expensive, but we’d posit that it’s more than worth the premium. Choose shade-grown, and enjoy your cup of coffee with a side order of environmental stewardship. It tastes terrific.