"Ethically Sourced" What it Means and Why it Matters.
Why buy ethically sourced coffee?
If you’re mindful about where your food comes from, you should consider buying ethically sourced coffee. Local, organic foods (such as vegetables, fruits, and meats) are fairly easy to find and purchase directly from the farmer because they’re grown all around us and native to the United States. Buying food this way positively contributes to the local community, as well as the planet. A relationship is often built with the farmers and you’re able to see exactly where the food is grown, harvested, and packaged. With imported goods like coffee (which can only be grown in a very small part of Hawaii), that kind of transparency is lacking, so it’s harder to be certain that the coffee beans are sustainably grown and ethically sourced.
What is ethically sourced coffee?
Ethically sourced coffee entails that roasters have much more control over the quality and sustainability of their beans, and ensures a mutually beneficial and environmentally friendly relationship with the farmer. The coffee farming industry has a history of using underpaid, forced labor for bean cultivation and harvest, coupled with issues such as hazardous work conditions, long hours, and the handling of toxic chemicals and pesticides. With a nearly insatiable appetite for caffeine across the globe, the environment also takes a hit. Massive amounts of deforestation take place on behalf of commercial coffee plantations, and their use of harmful agricultural methods only further deplete the Earth.
Here at ShareWell, we have a fantastic coffee supplier who has personal relationships with the growers. He owns for a company dedicated to selling transparent, high-quality coffee versus the cheapest commodity beans. We’re able to ask him questions such as, “Where has the coffee come from and what are conditions like on the farm? Have the farmers and workers been paid a fair price? Has the environment been taken into serious consideration?” and receive instantaneous, true answers backed with photos as evidence.
Common Labels and Buzzwords to Look For:
Rainforest Alliance Certified: this organization prioritizes sustainably grown coffee grown with a focus on conservation, reducing deforestation, and putting a stop to the destruction of ecosystems. However, they don’t guarantee socially ethical coffee or ensure healthy work conditions for the farm workers.
Fairtrade: Fair Trade USA works to reduce the use of synthetic chemicals and promote positive agricultural methods of farming. These practices support soil health and biodiversity, while also making the farm a safer place for its workers. Fair Trade Coffee is sourced following a strict set of rules to ensure sustainable farming practices and improvement of living conditions for small farmers. The only negative is, unless these farmers are part of a cooperative, the cost to gain and hold this certification can be far above a small-scale farm budget.
Direct Trade: this term indicates a roaster buying coffee directly from a producer with an honest relationship between the two parties. All terms such as quality, pricing, and company ethics are mutually beneficial and agreed upon and mutually beneficial.
Coffee is the tip of the iceberg. We vote with our dollars, meaning ANYTIME we buy or consume ANYTHING, we’re affecting and advocating for more of that product or practice in the future. Whenever possible, ask questions of transparency and choose the local, sustainable, and ethical option. Unfortunately this often entails having to spend a little more money, but consider the chain of workers and resources it took to have whatever it is you bought, as their quality of life matters just as much as yours. Spending mindfully this way creates a better Earth for ALL life in the future.
Leave it better than you found it.
Written by: Sam Raph