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The U.S. is the world's leading consumer of coffee, with Americans drinking some 400 million cups of coffee each day. But, drinking coffee can be detrimental to people and the planet, and the industry says it will cost $4 billion and take decades to make the entire sector sustainable.
But if you still want enjoy your cup of joe and be conscious of your impact on the Earth, here's a list of the 10 most sustainable coffee roasters in the U.S.
The list compiled by coffee writer Jimmy Sherfey comprises "10 U.S. roasters and retailers that are overcoming obstacles to curb carbon emissions, offset energy use, cut down on waste and help farmers mitigate the existing damages associated with climate change." They range from the nationally-distributed Peet's Coffee, which roasts all of its coffee in the first LEED Gold certified roasting facility in the U.S., to smaller producers such as Larry's Coffee in Raleigh, North Carolina. Founder Larry Larson is a Seattle expat who converted a school bus, used for deliveries, to run on used vegetable oil.
Coffee plants naturally prefer shade, as they evolved in the understory of the African jungle. But more and more, coffee is being grown in direct sun on monoculture plantations that resemble cornfields. Shade-grown coffee slipped from 43 percent of the world's farms in 1996 to just 24 percent in 2010. Three-fourths of the coffee farmland in Brazil and Vietnam has no shade tree cover at all. Much of their production is cheaper, robusta beans that are generally used for instant coffee and low-price supermarket brands.
The coffee you choose may be harmful to your health, to the environment or to the growers themselves. Much coffee is grown using pesticides, which has been shown to be detrimental to coffee farmers. Also, pesticides used to combat the coffee cherry borer and coffee rust can remain in the environment.
On large coffee plantations, workers often toil in harsh conditions for subsistence wages. Children as young as six or eight work the fields, and just 13 percent of coffee workers in Guatemala have completed primary education. In contrast to these big plantations, small farmers generally cultivate less than seven acres of land and often struggle to earn more than the cost of production. Fair Trade coffee may or may not help: only the label "Fair Trade Certified" ensures that farmers receive a fair price for their coffee.
Shade grown coffee in NicaraguaFlickr
So shade-grown, organically grown and Fair Trade Certified coffees are the way to go —if you can find them. In a recent trip to my local supermarket, however, I could find no coffee with the Fair Trade Certified label.
In order to research this story, I went to my local coffee shop and asked for a cup of sustainable coffee. The clerk wasn't taken aback by my requests. He told me that their coffee is supplied by Wicked Joe, which it turns out uses organic, Fair Trade Certified, shade grown beans. Their coffee is also bird-friendly. It meets the rigorous Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center criteria for shade tree farms, which includes 100 percent certified organic beans and the use of native shade trees for cover.
Many of these smaller roasters sell locally and online. But what about the ubiquitous Starbucks? On its website, the coffee giant states, "We're committed to ethically sourcing and roasting the highest-quality arabica coffee in the world."
Last year, they announced that 99 percent of their coffee had been ethically produced. Working with Conservation International, they've developed their own set of standards related to farmers' working conditions, reduced agrochemical use and improved economic transparency. But although the company states that it is one of the largest buyers of Fair Trade Certified coffee, you might have to specifically ask your barista for it. A search for "fair trade coffee" on the Starbucks website yields just two results, one for a whole bean Italian roast and one for portion packs.
McDonald's announced last week that it committed to purchasing all of its coffee from sustainable sources by 2020. The fast food retailer is also partnering with Conservation International. McDonald's buys arabica coffee from Colombia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Brazil, Peru and El Salvador, along with some espresso beans from Indonesia.
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‘Companies Should Not Be Allowed to Use Hazardous Ingredients in Products People Use’: Michelle Pfeiffer Speaks Up for Safer Cosmetics
The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.
Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.
The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.
By Julia Conley
Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.
The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.
President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.
"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.