How much rainforest can one cup of coffee help preserve? For those who buy coffee grown in the traditional manner, under the shade of rainforest trees, the answer is roughly 2.3 square feet per cup.
It would be zero for many coffee drinkers because much of the coffee that people drink is not shade-grown coffee; most plantation owners remove native trees and forest to grow coffee.
As outlined by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center's groundbreaking publication in 1996 Coffee, Conservation & Commerce in the Western Hemisphere there are many types of coffee farms throughout the coffee-growing regions, and the best type for wildlife and preservation of trees is the traditional natural grown rustic coffee farm.
The major shift in farming methods appears to have happened in the 1970s when farmers began to modernize with chemicals that eliminated diseases that formed on sun-exposed coffee trees.
The Arbor Day Foundation is a purveyor of coffee that is grown in the rustic or traditional form. We believe strongly in supporting these farmers because they are preserving trees in some of the most critical areas in the world.
A few years ago we wanted to look into the impact that a single 10-ounce bag of coffee had on the forest. Whereas a sun plantation has no trees, the rustic coffee farm has multiple layers of forest. On our farm, it takes about 65 square feet of rain forest to produce one roasted 10-ounce bag of shade-grown, organic fair trade coffee ($6.95).
Each co-op or farm is going to be different. The Arbor Day Foundation used numbers from the co-op that it works with in Chiapas, Mexico.
Acres of co-op farm: 617
Containers of coffee produced: 8
Burlap bags of coffee: 2,000 (250 bags per container)
Pounds per burlap bag: 152.117
Pounds of green coffee (total): 304,234
Pounds of roasted coffee (total): 258,598.9 (approx. 85% of green coffee weight)
Ounces of roasted coffee: 4,137,582.4 (16 ounces per pound)
No. 10-ounce coffee bags: 413,758.24
Acres per bag: .0014912
Square feet per bag: 64.956 (43,560 square feet per acre)
Square feet per cup: 2.338 (approx .36 oz per cup)
Editor's note: This article was provided by the Arbor Day Foundation. The Daily Green recommends that consumers look for "Bird Friendly" coffee (certified by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center) or Rainforest Alliance-certified coffee to be sure that the coffee plantation is in fact a shade-grown operation. Other labels to look for and consider when buying coffee (and they often go hand-in-hand with shade on traditional plantations) include USDA-certified organic and Fair Trade-certified coffee. Here are additional shade-grown coffee brands:
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