My last post was on coffee’s biological effects on sleep; this one will talk about the dark side of coffee more on an economic and ecological scale. Coffee was traditionally grown in a method known as “shade-grown”, in which coffee farms were grown under the shade of canopy. This method was more natural, and thus had very high biodiversity, but was less productive. Now, most coffee farms are “technified”; the canopy is cleared out and the coffee grows basks directly in sunlight. There is significantly more productivity (up to 500%), but at the cost of the environment and soil health (since it’s now just coffee plants).
Economically, coffee’s other negative impact relates to the economy, which also affects its own ecological impact. Mass produced coffee means more coffee for less, but this usually encourages a lack of sustainability. More so, coffee producing countries (Brazil, Columbia) and its farmers are usually exploited. Fair Trade certified coffee, however, encourages sustainability, economic stability for farmers via a base price for coffee, unionization, etc. Unfortunately, fair trade coffee tends to be more expensive. After all, most people can’t pay a premium coffee (unlike affluent white people), nor is the fair trade conglomerate perfect.
Nevertheless, there are more and more efforts for coffee to be sustainable (including Starbucks cycling out disposable plastic cups), and a newer movement called direct trade, in which coffee is purchased straight from the growers, eliminating unnecessary entities in-between.
Source: The Conversation