Coffee is one of those products where you have a lot of choices and options, and can really push your green credibility. A lot of people are willing to pay a bit more for Fair Trade coffee, but a new coffee company in Hamilton, Ontario. Coffeecology, is pushing the limits on how far you can go to be the most environmentally correct coffee company anywhere. The first and most obvious is that they deliver it by bicycle in returnable mason jars. A $1.00 deposit insures that you return your empty jar at the next delivery.
Fair Trade coffee can help farmers escape poverty. Most small-scale family farmers live in remote locations and lack access to credit, so they are vulnerable to middlemen who offer cash for their coffee at a fraction of its value. Fair Trade guarantees farmers a minimum price, and links farmers directly with importers, creating long-term sustainability.
Note that we are talking about the real international Fair Trade, not the new corporatist, American Exceptionalist Fair Trade USA that helps giant landowners and corporations escape poverty.
Organic: Coffee is the most heavily sprayed food crop in the world. Organic coffee is coffee that has been produced without the use of any pesticides or herbicides.
Shade Grown: Shade-grown coffees are grown in jungle environments. The coffee bushes are grown under a shade canopy is made up of a variety of trees and there are often companion plantings of tropical fruit trees. This means the plantations can support great local and migrating bird populations including Ontario songbirds whose numbers have been steadily decreasing.
Café Femenino: Women in coffee-growing regions are traditionally oppressed, marginalized and very often abused or abandoned. They have no rights and no role in the communities except to bear children and provide for their husbands and families. From Peru, comes a story of strength and empowerment that has given hope to women coffee growers around the world. In 2004, a brave group of Peruvian women proposed the idea of separating their coffee and selling it as a special commodity. A new coffee, Café Femenino, was born and is changing the role of women in rural coffee communities.
Whew. Fair trade, organic, bird friendly, shade grown, Cafe Feminino, freshly roasted in a returnable jar delivered by bicycle, at a price comparable to the (admittedly expensive) coffee I was already buying. This is a model that I would love to see emulated everywhere. More at Coffeecology, found at the Green Living Show.