Sustainable coffee: What it really means

Picking coffee in southwestern Colombia.

Coffee picking in Cauca, southwestern Colombia. (© Neil Palmer/CIAT)

Editor’s note: September 29 marks National Coffee Day in the U.S. Throughout the month of September, Human Nature is highlighting Conservation International’s sustainable coffee work. This post is the first in the series.

Have you ever wondered what the “sustainably grown” label on a bag of coffee beans means?

Growing coffee sustainably means conserving nature and providing better livelihoods for the people that produce it. Unsustainable coffee production contributes to deforestation, water contamination and the exploitation of workers.

Coffee farmers are increasingly having to deal with the effects of climate change, including higher temperatures and unpredictable rainfall patterns. To adapt, farmers are moving their farms to higher altitudes and investing in disease-resistant tree varieties. But these options are not enough — coffee farmers need more help.


Donate to help make coffee production better for farmers and the environment.

Enter the Sustainable Coffee Challenge, an initiative launched by Conservation International and partners to make coffee the world’s first completely sustainable agricultural product by uniting all the players in the coffee sector — growers, traders, roasters and retailers — to stimulate greater demand for (and spark bigger investments in) sustainable coffee. Through the challenge, Conservation International and members including Starbucks and McDonald’s are working to make coffee the world’s first sustainable agricultural commodity.

Get the full scoop on sustainable coffee here.

Olivia DeSmit is a staff writer for Conservation International.

Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates here. Donate to Conservation International here.

Further reading


  1. Pingback: Saving gorillas ‘one sip at a time’ | Human Nature - Conservation International Blog

  2. Pingback: 3 ways to be a more sustainable coffee drinker | Human Nature - Conservation International Blog

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