How to Brew a Greener Cup of Coffee

By EatingWell Editors, "Conscious Coffee," March/April 2011

Expert tips on how to brew a sustainable cup of joe.

"I also have 5 cup coffee maker with a reusable filter. Nothing to throw out, except the used grounds which now add to my backyard garden! I make coffee for me mainly so only brew as little as I need! "

Choose an Organic Brew

Choose an organic brew, preferably Fair Trade certified. Opting for certified organic coffee is your guarantee that the beans were grown, processed and harvested without toxic chemicals or pesticides. A "Fair Trade Certified" stamp from TransFair USA casts an even wider net, as it ensures that fair-wage standards and equitable social and working conditions, as well as environmental standards, were met.

Beyond those labels, "you can decide to support an additional cause if it's important to you," notes Kenneth Davids, founder of, the go-to coffee buying guide for industry insiders. "Bird-friendly" coffees, certified with a stamp from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, help ensure coffee was grown with surrounding vegetation and trees left intact, preserving sanctuary for migratory birds (and, incidentally, bees and other pollinating insects). Likewise, a Rainforest Alliance Certification stamp attests that strict guidelines were followed to protect the coffee region's habitat, local population, and wildlife.

But finding "Shade-Grown" on a label is a less helpful guide, Davids notes. "There's no clear definition of what it actually means." What's more, he adds, "in some places you can't grow coffee in shade—such as Brazil or Kona, Hawaii."

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