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Your Favorite Coffee Might Just be Saving the World

Updated: May 14, 2023

by Emily Jarecki


Nespresso has taken surprisingly big steps to ensure that its company is sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Known for their Nespresso pods, Nespresso has become dedicated to brewing The Positive Cup. Since 2003, Nespresso has partnered with the Rainforest Alliance to focus on a future with a protected biodiverse environment, prospering farmers and workers, and sustainable land use. Together, they created the AAA (Agricultural Adjustment Administration) Sustainable Quality Program to build sustainable farming communities and long-standing relationships with coffee producers. Nespresso and the Rainforest Alliance aim to help farmers maintain a stable income while building environmental solutions, like finding ways to fight climate change. Currently, this program has reached over 110,000 farmers in 14 countries. Nespresso sources 95% of its coffee through this AAA program.

To further preserve the environment, since 2014, Nespresso has introduced agroforestry into their farming communities. Agroforestry reintroduces native trees into or around farms so that there is a complementary use of trees, crops, and animals to preserve the biodiversity. So far, Nespresso’s agroforestry efforts have reached Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Kenya, Nicaragua, and Uganda.

Nespresso is committed to continually integrating sustainability by giving a second life to all of their products. Their aluminum capsules, while maintaining 100% freshness, are completely recyclable. Nespresso sends bags to all of its customers so that they can collect their capsules and send them back to Nespresso for free through UPS drop-off points. These single-serve capsules have been reborn into ballpoint pens, army knives, and even bicycles. Just recently, Nespresso launched capsules made of 80% recycled aluminum.

The grinds collected are composted into nutrient-rich topsoil. When the coffee grounds are mixed with manure, it undergoes a methanation process that generates heat and electricity. In 2016, Nespresso partnered with Groupe E Greenwatt, where they are amazingly able to produce enough renewable energy for Holland’s city bus network.

On their website, Nespresso further illustrates how they make sure to brew The Perfect Cup.


Starbucks is a huge company taking bigger steps towards being more Earth-friendly. They have more than 400,000 farmers in 30 different countries. To be more sustainable, Starbucks is going straight to the source: the farms. Their goal is to reduce carbon emissions and conserve water usage by 50% by 2030.

To achieve carbon-neutral green coffee, Starbucks plans to equip farmers with precision agronomy tools that increase farm productivity while reducing fertilizers and distributing climate-resistant tree varieties. By partnering with Conservation International, Starbucks hopes to protect and restore at-risk forests in coffee-producing countries like Colombia and Peru. In order to further reduce carbon dioxide emissions, Starbucks is expanding its plant-based menu. Dairy products are some of the biggest sources of carbon dioxide emissions, so Starbucks now features a range of non-dairy drinks and vegetarian or vegan options, which are growing in popularity.

To achieve 50% conservation in water usage by 2030, Starbucks has already purchased 600 eco-mills that have reduced water usage by 80%. In existing mills, they are investing in water processing technology and machinery to become more efficient and to develop water replenishment projects at their farm. These mills will allow Starbucks coffee farms to be more sustainable as well as productive.

Starbucks is also impacting other coffee farms so that they can become more holistically sustainable. The Nariño project involves 100 small-holder farmers that will be given hands-on support and in-depth education on responsible agriculture use and optimized business practices. This project will help encourage small coffee farmers to grow in productivity, quality, and profitability by taking on these eco-friendly practices.

Starbucks continues to come out with more ideas and initiatives to build a planet-positive future.

Ethical Bean

With every Ethical Bean bag, you can scan a QR code to find out exactly where the coffee came from, when it was roasted, and at what temperature.

This coffee is 100% Fairtrade certified, guaranteeing that the brand puts the lives of small business coffee farmers first. Over 125 million people worldwide depend on coffee for their livelihood. Ethical Bean gives a minimum price per pound to their farmers to avoid any price fluctuations that could affect their income.

Ethical Bean coffee is organic, which means that their coffee comes from farmers that promote the health of the environment. Pesticides and fertilizers that could contaminate the waterways and surrounding environment are never used. Instead, building the fertility of the soil is their priority to conserve health and biodiversity.

Once collected, the beans are roasted in a LEED standard facility. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design which certifies companies only if they reach green standards in their building design, construction, operations, and maintenance. Green standards include saving energy, water efficiency, reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and conserving resources. In addition to Ethical Bean’s environmentally friendly facility, the beans are roasted in an energy-efficient Smart Roaster.

From crop to cup, Ethical Bean stands behind their belief of improving the lives of farmers as well as protecting the land and waterways in the meantime.

Larry’s Coffee

Larry’s Coffee is known for being the most environmentally friendly coffee brand. All of their coffee is organic, Fairtrade, Kosher, and shade-grown.

Larry’s Coffee is the founder of Cooperative Coffees, a co-op of independent coffee roasters that source their coffee only from farms that are Fairtrade cooperative. Their coffee comes from small coffee farms, typically less than 5 acres, in order to maintain their faith in Fairtrade farming by putting farmers first.

Larry’s Coffee is Kosher because it adheres to a natural roasting process. Especially when coffee is decaffeinated or flavored, chemicals like ethyl acetate are used. While this might achieve that decaf pumpkin-spice flavor, the food becomes non-Kosher. Larry’s Coffee relies on a natural and water-based decaffeination process that doesn’t include any chemicals, preservatives, or extra ingredients. This gives the coffee a 100% authentic flavor, makes it Kosher, and respects the environment.

Shade-grown coffee means that it was grown in its natural habitat without disrupting the surrounding environment. Coffee plants typically grow well in shaded areas, but it’s not always easy for a business to produce the same large quantities as sun-grown coffee. By being grown in the shade, Larry’s Coffee respects the environment and biodiversity of their crop location, preserving the forest canopy as well as ecological diversity. Being shade-grown also means that since it’s under the protective barrier of the forest, pesticides are not needed due to a natural protective barrier. There is also no need for fertilizer since the leaves and foliage that fall onto the ground provide enough nutrients for the coffee plants to grow.

Larry’s Coffee is also certified in the B Corporation, which means that they meet the standards of high sustainability and environmental performance.

Their roasting facility uses solar power, rainwater, zone heating, natural daylight through a “clearstory,” and on-site composting to reduce any waste. Their building is even made from reclaimed materials. They’ve also made sure that their newly introduced ‘K cups’ are fully recyclable. From crop to facility, Larry’s Coffee maintains its purpose of being environmentally friendly.

Café Mam

Café Mam has been around since the 1990s and is a great sustainable coffee business model. Their coffee is Fairtrade, organic, and shade-grown. It is also certified by the Small Producers’ Symbol (SPP), which are small producers that donate 2% of sales to non-profits dedicated to social justice and environmental causes.

In 2019, Café Mam implemented the Climate Change Mitigation Fund for their farming partnerships. They offer a premium of $.10 per pound of coffee to their co-ops to combat the effects of climate change in their community. To this date, they have donated $108,000 between 5 cooperatives that were used to plant 8,000 additional trees, control erosion, improve education, and equip coffee facilities with solar power.

Café Mam supports farmers that practice terracing because it allows farmers to conserve rainwater and prevent soil erosion that could disrupt the plants and natural waterways.

Composting is another thing that they strongly focus on. Their coffee packaging is fully recyclable or compostable. This company was even the first to put on the store shelf a shelf-stable, fully biodegradable bag even featuring a degassing valve for extra freshness. Any cardboard shipping boxes used are recycled, and the shipping paper used is made from recycled office waste. Even the delivery vehicles Café Mam uses runs on locally sourced biodiesel. Café Mam’s products are eco-friendly, and the operations behind the coffee are environmentally responsible as well.

Higher Ground Roasters

You can be sure that Higher Ground Roasters is going to be some of the freshest coffee you taste because it is roasted and shipped to order. All of Higher Ground Roasters’ coffee is organic, Fairtrade, and shade-grown. Their decaf roasts and blends are created using the Swiss Water Process. This process doesn’t rely on any chemicals to remove the caffeine from coffee beans. Instead, it relies on osmosis and caffeine dissolvability to remove the caffeine. Higher Ground Roasters uses this process to stay environmentally friendly and chemical-free while maintaining quality tasting coffee.

Higher Ground Roasters is dedicated to making a positive impact on the environment. From four types of coffees you can order, all the profits go to a non-profit organization that promotes sustainability and environmental conservation. All proceeds go to the non-profits: Alabama Rivers Alliance River Roast, Black Warrior Riverkeeper Blend, Cahaba River Society Blend, and the Freshwater Land Trust Blend. Higher Ground Roaster has partnered with The Black Warrior Riverkeeper and The Cahaba River Society to take sustainability further, and any energy used is offset by wind farms.


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