Coffee farmers are among the worst-treated in the world. According to Smithsonian Magazine, they are faced with hard work, low prices and a crop that’s subject to rampant price pressures, as well as various forms of blight and disease. The problems are environmental too. As our appetite for caffeine grows, so does deforestation and harmful agricultural methods which are detrimental to the local environment, wildlife and climate change on a wider scale.
Although it will take time (and large systemic disruption) for this to change, lots of conscious coffee consumers are keen to make the switch to ethical coffee to help make a difference — but what exactly makes a coffee ethical?
There is no clear definition for ethical coffee, but it tends to refer to coffee that is brought direct from the grower at a fair price, sustainably sourced and roasted, and packaged in plastic-free and recyclable materials. Generally speaking, the least ethical coffee will be instant and from large corporations.
Here's that broken down, to help you know what to look for when you're purchasing ethical coffee.
1. Direct from Grower
Look out for coffee suppliers that have a direct relationship with their growers. And we don't mean just for the photo opportunities — your ethical coffee supplier should pay a fair price for the beans, and enough for the grower to keep producing beans (with a better living wage).
At Sanctuary Coffee, their "coffee is responsibly sourced from importer partners or directly with producers all over the world and fully traceable to farm. This assurance allows [them] to trade with confidence knowing that [their] farmers receive a better living wage; keeping the foundation of the industry going strong." On top of this, Sanctuary Coffee invests a share of their profits into animal rescues and sanctuaries all over the UK, so consider what your suppliers do to help outside of their business too.
If your "ethical" coffee is cheap or from a large corporation, it’s unlikely the farmer who grew the coffee has been compensated.
2. Sustainably Sourced & Roasted
"Sustainably sourced" refers to the integration of social, ethical and environmental performance factors into the process of selecting suppliers. As above, this means that you consider the farmers, planet and processes in order to create the most sustainable product.
Businesses can choice the farms (or import partners) that are the best for the workers and planet then, but roasters can also cut down on their energy use, reduce single-use items, re-use chaff & burlap, and offset their carbon (go carbon neutral) to ensure the coffee is sustainable. Sanctuary Coffee is seasonally selected, and then roasted in small batches to keep coffee fresh and waste low.
3. Eco-Conscious Packaging
Business should also use less single-use plastic, and more recycled and recyclable materials to house their coffee beans (or grind). Even better if this is compostable or biodegradable.
As much as we all love convenience, your coffee pod machine contributes to the 52 billion capsules that end up in landfills or in oceans a year.
At Sanctuary Coffee, the coffee is delivered in plastic-free packaging which can be recycled in home compost.
How to Reuse Coffee Grounds
6 million tonnes of used coffee grounds are sent to landfill every year. To help reduce this, make sure you reuse your coffee grounds. You can,
- Use them as compost or fertiliser.
- Mix them with coconut oil to make an exfoliating scrub.
- Create a natural cleaning solution, that scours well.
- Use as a natural fabric or paper dye.
- Repel garden pests by sprinkling around your plants.
- Deodorise your fridge.
Our Sustainable Coffee Recommendations
- Little Joe by Sanctuary Coffee | Single Origin | Mio Fazenda, Brazil | Direct Trade.
- Apple Sundae by Sanctuary Coffee | Single Origin | La Pradera, Colombia | Direct Trade.
- Fifty Three by Sanctuary Coffee | Single Origin | El Cerro, Peru | Direct Trade.
- Sanctuary Blend by Sanctuary Coffee | Seasonal Blend | Direct Trade.
- Sweet Dionne by Sanctuary Coffee | Single Origin | Izuba, Burundi | Direct Trade.
And if you prefer coffee with a little less buzz, check out Sanctuary Decaf by Sanctuary Coffee.
Good People Incorporated is a multi-vendor, sustainable marketplace that stocks ethical alternatives for common household and lifestyle goods. Shop our full collection here from a range of accredited vendors, and check out our blog page for more advice on how you can live a more ethical and sustainable lifestyle.