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Not Your Average Cup of Joe

Updated: Apr 21

It’s the best day of the year: National Coffee Day! So go ahead, drink up – but first, be sure your favorite java is doing its part to defend our natural resources and farmers.

Coffee that Contributes to the Greater Good

While choosing my brew at my apartment’s complimentary coffee bar, I’ve noticed that one of the options provided has a little image of a frog on it, stating that it is Rainforest Alliance Certified. So of course, that’s the one I go with. But what does this certification really represent?

Opting for coffee grown on farms that are Rainforest Alliance Certified helps to protect the land and waterways by encouraging shade-grown coffee, and benefits farmers by providing them with education on sustainable and efficient business practices, which, in turn, improves farmers’ incomes. To bear this certification, specific agricultural standards are followed, such as conserving biodiversity through a commitment to not contribute to deforestation, and natural resource conservation through reduced pesticide use. The well-being of the workers and community are also enforced through protection of worker rights and prohibiting child labor. Every so often, farms that bear the Rainforest Alliance Certification are audited to ensure these standards are being upheld.

For smaller farms, the Fair Trade Certification protects their economic stability by creating transparent, strong relationships with all those that are involved in the business, from farm to consumer. A minimum price for the coffee beans is enforced, which acts as a safety net for their livelihood if market prices for coffee were to decrease. Farmers also earn a premium on their sales that are used to further their sustainable farming practices, improve the quality of their product, and support the education of the community youth. The Fair Trade Certification creates a chain of responsibility in which farmers, distributors, retailers, and consumers all play a role in social, environmental, and economic sustainability.

Ethical Espresso

Does your coffee not fall under these certifications? Don't panic, there are many brands that are in fact certified, and that are easy to find—so you can still celebrate today!

Support small businesses by purchasing from:

Here are some big-name coffee brands that are Rainforest Alliance Certified:

  • Nespresso

  • Kroger

  • Whole Foods

  • Caribou

  • Dunkin Donuts

  • Peet's

  • Flying Goat

  • Royal Cup

Big-name Fair Trade Certified coffees include:

  • Starbucks

  • Trader Joe’s (Sumatra Blend)

  • Kirkland (House Blend)

For more information, and to see if your coffee is certified, visit:

Chelsi Brown is a graduate student of the Coordinated Program in Dietetics at Georgia State University. With a background in exercise science and health coaching, she aspires to one day be a sports dietitian, helping athletes to perform and feel their best! In her free time, you can find her at the local gym, playing with her pup Buffy, or dancing her heart out at music festivals.


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