Sustainability in Coffee is Necessary Throughout the Production Process

Coffee is an incredibly widespread drink, and before the magical brown liquid touches your lips, the different parts that go into it have made a long journey all across the world.

Since there are so many different stages in coffee production, you may be concerned about the environmental footprint of your coffee. In this post, we’ll talk about some of the stages of coffee production and how you can best go the sustainable route.

What is sustainability

Before we talk about sustainable coffee, what exactly is sustainability? It’s a way to fulfill today’s needs in such a way that future generations are not affected.

Growing and buying coffee beans

The first stage of course is coffee growing. While there are many commercial, large scale farms that supply the bigger manufacturers, there are lots of smaller farms that are supported by smaller roasters.

These roasters often specifically support smaller indigenous coops.

Many of these smaller roasters pride themselves in being Fair Trade and organic and will openly advertise it on their websites. So if you’re looking to buy sustainable coffee beans, check out Fair Trade roasters and stay away from bigger corporate coffee brands.

I’d like to point out here that many bigger brands are organic certified, but not necessarily Fair Trade.

This is a great list of fair trade coffee roasters to get started.


The next potential point of wastage is the packaging. Coffee needs to be packaged well in order to retain freshness.

The packaging issue actually starts when the coffee leaves the roaster. Raw green coffee beans are not as susceptible to packaging woes as roasted coffee beans are. Roasted beans need to be sealed in a way that limits their exposure to air.

This is the only way they can retain their freshness!

Many craft roasters use recyclable packaging or packaging made from recycled materials. This is to try and make sure the environmental footprint is as low as possible.


Once the coffee reaches your home, there are also sustainability challenges in brewing! Pod machines, for example, are notorious for generating waste. Most pods are not recyclable, though there are companies that now produce fully recyclable or compostable pods.

Otherwise, pod machines were responsible for a staggering amount of waste being generated every year.

If drip coffee is your thing, there are reusable filters that you can opt for rather than paper filters. Even if you use paper filters, you can simply rinse then after using and dry them in air, and they’ll be good for a few more uses.

Finally, when you have to throw the paper filter out, you can compost it or recycle it.

French press and espresso are some of the most sustainable brewing methods as there’s no waste generated after the brew aside from the coffee grounds themselves.

Drinking coffee on the go

If you like to occasionally pick up your coffee from a local coffee shop, opt for not using their disposable cups and bring your own coffee mug from home.

Many coffee shops offer incentives and discounts if you bring your own mug.

After drinking

Finally, you don’t need to throw away coffee grounds – there are tons of uses for coffee grounds at home, from sprinkling them in your yard, using them as material for compost, or using them for cleaning certain surfaces.

Challenges in sustainability

Interestingly enough, coffee sustainability is not an entirely new idea. In 1962, there was an international coffee agreement where many topics were discussed such as how to control the market from excess.

Looking at it from an economic perspective, volatility in coffee prices means that coffee farmers’ income is directly affected. That could mean the difference between getting enough groceries for the month, putting your kids through school, or being able to buy medicine.

As you can see, sustainability is a huge issue for coffee and as consumers, we should try and be as responsible as possible.

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