Most people have heard of the “dirty dozen” (the 12 fruits and vegetables you should always buy organic because they have the heaviest pesticide load): Peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes (imported), spinach, lettuce and potatoes.
One thing many people don’t think about is whether the cup of coffee they drink every morning carries a heavy pesticide load or not. Until recently, I didn’t. That is until I learned a few facts about how and where most coffee is grown.
Coffee typically isn’t grown in the States—most countries that do grow coffee don’t regulate the use of chemicals and pesticides. While some of these harmful chemicals are banned or regulated in the States and Europe, they’re legal in many countries that produce large coffee crops.
That’s why coffee is the most chemically treated agricultural product on the planet. So, if you aren’t drinking organic coffee, you’re likely exposing yourself to a dose of pesticides with every cup. And the workers tending to the crops are exposed to high levels of these toxic chemicals every day.
The use of these chemicals affects more than just you and the farmers though. The most common chemicals used in coffee production are synthetic petroleum-based fertilizers that slowly destroy the soil's fertility and seep into local water supplies. That’s not good for the environment or the people of these countries.
Additionally, the production of coffee is causing rapid deforestation. That’s because coffee grows naturally under the shade of the rainforest—not in direct sunlight. The ingenious coffee industry has developed sun-resistant coffee tree hybrids that now comprise about 70% of the world's coffee production. As a result rainforest is being cleared at alarming rates to make room for the new, sun resistant coffee trees. Yikes.
So, my recommendation is to look for the USDA Organic label (which means the product is at least 95% organic unless the packaging says otherwise) or other organic certifications to ensure you're not buying coffee that has been grown or processed with the use of harmful chemicals.
Even better, purchase coffee with Fair Trade Certified and Rainforest Alliance labels to support farmers who are paid fairly and treated well. And, look for shade-grown varieties so you know the coffee is being grown under the canopy of the rainforest, leaving those ancient trees intact, along with the wildlife that call them home.
While it may be difficult for many of us to find organic, sustainably grown coffee at major grocery stores, with a quick search, I was able to find multiple options on Amazon.com, including:
- Organic Camano Island Coffee Roasters
- Seattle's Best Organic Fair Trade Ground Coffee
- Coffee Bean Direct Nicaraguan, Shade Grown Organic Fair Trade Whole Bean Coffee
- Baronet Fair Trade Organic Coffee
So it's easy to make this simple change for your health and the environment. Do your part and switch to organic, sustainably-grown coffee.