Sustaining Costa Rican Coffee

Throughout this trip, I have learned a lot about sustainability in the Costa Rican coffee industry. Perhaps the most interesting application of sustainable practices was those used on some coffee farms, especially on Life Monteverde. After causing massive deforestation during their prime industrialization period, the agricultural industry in Costa Rica on the whole has made major strides toward becoming more environmentally friendly. Learning about Life Monteverde’s efforts towards reforestation on both their and their neighbors’ farms was especially enlightening because they stressed the importance of these trees since they provide biological corridors for animals’ migrations. Overall, I realized that coffee farmers in Costa Rica have made several improvements for sustainable agriculture, but that they still have a long way to go in recovering from their previous destruction.

One of the most surprising things I learned before we even left for Costa Rica was that 80% of the original coffee berry goes to waste. When adding all of this up for a batch of coffee, there is an incredible amount of waste produced to make each bag. Because of this, coffee mills have the somewhat difficult task of deciding what to do with all of the waste. Decades ago, the most common practice was to dump all of the pulp, honey, and parchment into nearby rivers. However, this practice polluted the rivers by allowing for algal blooms which produce too much oxygen in the water and kill the fish. Now, many coffee mills, such as Doka Estate, have implemented no waste policies, meaning that they use every part of the berry. The pulp is used as fertilizer, the honey is fermented into liquor, and the parchment is used as fuel. It was very interesting to see how coffee mills have been able to work to become more sustainable by recycling all of the waste they produce.

When roasting coffee, it is important to continue focusing on sustainability because this process requires a large amount of energy. One way that several roasters do this is by using the parchment from the coffee beans as a fuel for the roasters. In this way, they are both recycling the waste from the coffee bean itself and eliminating the need for fossil fuel use. This method helps several companies, including Britt and Coopedota, to achieve the high designation of being carbon neutral. The efforts that coffee roasters are taking to reduce their use of fossil fuels promotes environmental sustainability by cutting down the release of greenhouse gases and helping to prevent further global warming.

In retail stores and cafes, companies must focus particularly on economic sustainability. The best example of an economically sustainable business was the Britt stores. Although Britt once limited itself to coffee, it has expanded throughout 13 countries where it has stores that sell all types of merchandise for tourists. Britt pioneered the method of a multi-local company, meaning it has stores all over the world but the products and layout of each one is unique to the location. By using this format, Britt has effectively targeted tourists in all of the countries with its stores through thorough investigation.

Although it may not be immediately obvious, customers can have a major impact on the sustainability of all of the steps that come before them in the coffee industry. By only buying sustainable coffee, customers can shift the market towards being as sustainable as possible because of the increased demand for these types of coffee. It is very easy for customers to evaluate the sustainability of the coffee they buy by checking its certifications and doing some research into its methods. Overall, customers really have the greatest ability of all the steps to make a difference in promoting sustainability.

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