One of the major issues in the coffee industry is sustainability. In every aspect and area of the business—from the farm to cup—there is room for growth when it comes to energy and waste management. The future of coffee (like any commodity dealing with climate change) depends on the ability of farmers, roasters, baristas, and customers to make smart decisions that favor long term sustainability goals.

As consumers, we can choose to buy coffee from roasteries that participate in direct trade with farmers and cooperatives invested in environmentally sound growing practices. We can also make the decision to patron coffee shops with strong recycling and energy-saving programs.

As always, being a conscious consumer requires a certain amount resources—mainly extra time and money. One must do the research to spend her/his funds wisely and I can understand that not everyone has the luxury to do so. Not everyone has access to artisanal coffeehouses dedicated to sustainability, not everyone can afford to purchase beans from third wave roasters invested in energy efficiency. But for those of us coffee lovers who can afford to care, there are many efforts we can support in order to raise the industry’s environmental standards.

The North Carolina based Counter Culture Coffee is one of the leaders in both quality and sustainability. Recently, the roasting company released an incredibly transparent report on its in-house sustainability efforts. Counter Culture has been recording its greenhouse emissions since 2010, in hopes of decreasing its overall carbon footprint.

In the agricultural world, the coffee farmers of Costa Rica have also been pushing towards a more energy positive future. By 2021, the small but driven Central American nation hopes to make its coffee production completely carbon neutral. This is a very exciting effort on Costa Rica’s part, which may influence other coffee producing countries and farms across the globe.

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photo courtesy of Christopher Michel/Flickr

If we want to keep drinking coffee, then we have to think about the work and energy that goes into growing, roasting, and serving it. Simply supporting your local cafés and domestic roasteries that are investing in sustainability is a great start to helping ensure the agricultural and economic future of the coffee industry.