May 19, 2009
Not Local, Yet Sustainable - The Whole Cup of Coffee
Posted by Sophy, www.sustainabletable.org
Here at Sustainable Table, we advocate buying local food from local farmers, with hundreds of articles and blog posts attesting to the fact that nearly everything you need can be found within a 500-mile range. There is, however, one very important product that we at the office cannot live without and that cannot be grown locally in many places - the all important morning coffee.
1.4 billion cups of coffee are consumed daily. After water, it is the world’s second most popular drink. As with all great commodities - corn, soy, beef - there is an obvious risk of exploitation of resources and workers. Over 100 million people in developing countries depend on coffee for their livelihood, and many of them are not treated justly.
Since we are not planning to give up coffee anytime soon, the best possible thing we can do is drink coffee that is produced in line with our principals. Fortunately for us, such a product does exist.
National Geographic has recently partnered with Brazilian coffee company Café Bom Dia, to create the new Terra Firma coffee line. Terra Firma beans are certified organic by the U.S., Japan and Canada and are also certified Fair Trade, guaranteeing that workers have received a “fair price” for the fruits of their labor. Generally, the fair trade movement aims to help marginalized people in developing countries by giving them fair representation within world markets. Café Bom Dia practices a “tree to shelf” philosophy, meaning they maintain links with the growers, roasters and purveyors of the coffee - middlemen are minimized.
There are also strict environmental standards that one has to meet to be certified Fair Trade. Café Bom Dia is a CarbonNeutral® company, and recently converted their Brazilian roaster from fossil fuel to renewable biomass power. They have converted many of their vehicles to bio-fuel and reduced the waste they send to landfills by 87% percent in recent years. Best of all, the coffee is produced on sustainable farms throughout Brazil. Growers live on their own farms, with average size of about 20 acres. The company has put in place programs to improve the farmer’s lives, including a support center for high-risk pregnancies and an education center for children and adults.
By partnering with National Geographic, Terra Firma has pledged to help protect the environment, indigenous peoples and their culture. Part of the proceeds from coffee sales go to National Geographic’s research, exploration, conservation and education programs. So while Terra Firma coffee may not be local, it is sustainably farmed and provides income and a better life for the farmers who grow it.
To read more about the coffee and the partnership between National Geographic and Café Bom Dia, go to their website.