The Climate Institute of Australia has reported that by 2050 the coffee-producing areas of the world will diminish by half due to climate change. In the 1980’s there was a collapse in world coffee prices which left smallholder farmers who were often already paid very little for their beans, even worse off, and in response (in particular to the struggles of Mexican Farmers, Fairtrade began to intervene. The worlds coffee market is worth nearly 100 billion pounds and in terms of commodities only comes in second to oil, yet pickers, farmers and other coffee producers are still left short with less than minimal wages, child labour, poor living conditions and more.
With these things in mind it’s easy to see how we might lose our beloved coffee in the not too distant future, and what a shame it would be to miss out on all those amazingly different tastes from all over the world. So, what can we do about it? How can we help ensure that we don’t lose our 100 billion economy booster and our favourite beverage?
First and foremost, we can continue to enjoy great coffee at home but ensuring that we select beans and blends that are sustainably farmed. By only purchasing coffee from sustainable sources we help show that there is a real demand for coffee that is produced in a way that does not exploit workers who are involved in its production and that the farms the beans come from put as much back into the environment as they use.
We can ensure that our coffee is Fairtrade and comes from sustainable sources by looking out for some of the following accreditation on the packaging:
- It’s Organic – If the packaging states that it’s organic then it holds the USDA Organic seal, which means it’s verified by government-accredited inspectors ensuring no synthetic pesticides (which have a particularly negative environmental effect) are used.
- It’s Fair Trade Certified – Showing that the growers have been paid at least a minimum price per lb.
- It’s Rainforest Alliance Certified – Although it doesn’t hold a lot of weight in terms of it’s workers being treated fairly, it does suggest that the coffee hasn’t had a hugely negative effect on the environment when grown.
Looking out for responsible retailers and manufacturers of coffee will also help to ensure that we don’t lose out on drinking the perfect cup of coffee when the need takes us. Socially responsible retailers will usually make it clear why and how they are environmentally and socially responsible because they know it matters, so if it isn’t glaringly obvious on the packet, try a quick search on the world wide web and if there’s no sign of it on their marketing, we can be pretty sure they aren’t.
In addition, if we really want to make a difference we could get involved with organisations such as; Fairtrade, World Fair Trade Organization and European Coffee Federation. These organisations dedicated themselves to ensuring that coffee workers living standards are upheld and that they are not left in dire working conditions with unlivable wages, as well as ensuring the environmental impact of coffee farming is counterbalanced or minimised. We can get involved by volunteering with initiatives such as ‘Volunteering for Fairtrade’ and fundraising for similar organisations. The young gent in this clip, is a great example of how trying to make the smallest difference can cause something bigger, something greater and something that can inspire us to do our bit.