Green Tip of the Week

Learn what types of coffee are better for the planet, your taste buds


How should you drink better coffee — better for the planet, its people and your taste buds?

First, look for coffee beans that are organically grown. Usually this means that coffee is produced without using artificial pesticides or herbicides. This ensures that pollution from wastewater and fertilizers is minimized and soil erosion is decreased because native forests are kept intact.

Also seek out coffee beans that are Fair Trade Certified™ — this is your sign that the harvesters work under humane conditions and are paid fairly for their efforts.

How is buying Fair Trade Certified™ coffee eco-friendly? Because there’s a proven link between poverty alleviation and conservation in coffee farming communities.

When growers are paid fairly, they don’t have an incentive to cut down forests in order to grow more coffee.

Purchasing coffee marked “shade grown” is also good for the planet. Coffee trees grown in the shade of larger tropical forests help provide valuable habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife and endangered species. Coffee farms engaged in shade growing can support approximately 150 individual species of migratory birds, providing them with shelter and sustenance for their long journeys.

Better yet, for any budding coffee snobs, shade-grown coffee beans ripen more slowly, providing a deeper, more luxurious flavor.

Finally, to be the most eco-friendly, you should find the source of coffee beans that is closest to where you live and where the beans were originally grown. Buying coffee as local as you can will cut down on carbon emissions from transportation and distribution. Catholic Relief Services provides an interactive map of Fair Trade coffee roasters in the United States.

Learn other sustainability tips at the Design for a Living World exhibition and photo essay in Chicago! For more information, visit

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