Coffee and Climate Change

Reader Contribution by Anna Clark and Rainforest Alliance
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Did you know that more than 400 million cups of coffee are consumed each day in the U.S. alone? Coffee has become more than just a morning pick-me-up; it has become a cultural obsession. However, as we sip our morning cup o’ joe, waiting for the caffeine buzz to kick-in, how many of us turn our thoughts to where the coffee beans were grown and how it impacts the environment and local communities? And who ever thought our beloved coffee could be directly linked to global climate change?

The world’s coffee is cultivated and harvested by more than 25 million people throughout the tropics, often in areas regarded as high priorities for conservation. These coffee-growing communities depend on coffee for their livelihoods and it is at least as much a part of their cultural heritage as it is in the countries where coffee is consumed.

Vietnam Coffee Workers © Rainforest Alliance

The Rainforest Alliance has played a key role in the shift towards sustainable coffee production. But what exactly does the Rainforest Alliance do? In a nutshell, the Rainforest Alliance works to conserve forests and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices. Now, more than 1.5 million farm workers and their families are benefiting from Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farming.

If you’ve seen the Rainforest Alliance Certified green frog seal, you probably know that coffee stamped with the Rainforest Alliance Certified green frog seal is grown sustainably, benefiting wildlife and farm workers alike. Farms certified by the Rainforest Alliance must meet comprehensive environmental, social and economic standards that protect wildlife and waterways, conserve forests and improve the quality of life for farm workers and their local communities. What you might not know, however, is that in many cases the sustainable management practices implemented on Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee farms also help to mitigate the effects of climate change.

And how are farming practices used on Rainforest Alliance Certified farms helping to curb climate change? For a start, forests are conserved and farmers are prohibited from cutting down trees just to plant crops. Forests play a key role in storing the gases that lead to global warming. When forests are clear-cut, these gases are released into the atmosphere. Deforestation actually plays a greater role in climate change than all of the emissions from cars, trucks and buses combined!

In addition to conserving forests, Rainforest Alliance certification encourages farmers to maintain healthy soils and reduce energy, water and agrochemical use. Not only do such practices reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the levels of carbon stored on farms, but they also help farms become more resilient to extreme weather events such as hurricanes — which are likely to increase with climate change.

But how can we further encourage farmers to implement such practices? By providing them with a financial incentive! By planting trees or avoiding deforestation, farmers can sequester additional carbon and sell credits for it on the carbon market. This benefits coffee farmers and global climate change mitigation efforts alike.

With the support of ECOM and the International Financial Corporation (a member of the World Bank Group), the Rainforest Alliance developed a how-to guide designed to help farmers develop carbon projects — reforestation projects that sequester additional carbon on a farm and can be sold as carbon credits. Carbon projects also help coffee farmers diversify their income – meaning they have a buffer from potential fluctuations in coffee prices, which ultimately enhances their economic stability.

So, what can you do to help mitigate the effects of climate change and conserve fertile soils and natural resources for future generations? Shop the frog! Look for coffee stamped with the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal — your assurance that coffee was grown with respect to the environment and farm workers alike. Want to learn more about how coffee farmers benefit from Rainforest Alliance certification? Check out our sustainable coffee website,

 © Rainforest Alliance