13 Best Sustainable Coffee: What Is It And Why You Need To Try It

default image by Vasileia Fanarioti | Updated on August 1st, 2021

Sustainability. You’re probably heard the word, you have guessed that it’s a good thing but you don’t know exactly what it is. 

Well, sustainability can be tricky to explain but the bottomline is this: if there were not any farmers cultivating coffee plants you wouldn’t be drinking coffee and so for coffee to have a future we all need to support the farmers.

sustainable coffee

This is a very simplified answer to what sustainable coffee means because there are of course other parts of the coffee chain that can be sustainable such as roasting, brewing, waste management, packaging, re-using coffee grounds etc. 

However, today we are going to talk about how you can check if the coffee beans you are buying are supporting the farmers’ livelihoods. 

The good news is that there are a number of coffee certifications that can help you with this and we are going to let you know all about them.

Here’s what we are going to cover:

  • Why sustainable coffee matters
  • How can coffee be sustainable
  • What are coffee certifications 
  • Different types of coffee certifications
  • What’s your role in this

Why sustainable coffee matters

Climate change and low coffee prices are continuing to have a negative effect on coffee farms. While the planet’s climate is changing, the cultivation conditions on coffee farms are changing with it, making them unwelcoming for many varieties of coffee.

At the same time, the farmers earn very little income from coffee production, sometimes not even enough to support their livelihood, let alone purchasing coffee varieties that will be more resilient against climate change. 

If you choose to buy certified sustainable coffee you are effectively helping these farmers and securing the future of coffee.

How can coffee be sustainable

According to Quiñones, it’s commonly accepted that sustainability is built on three pillars: 

  1. Economic:  Incomes, productivity, and cost production management
  2. Social: Social investment, rural education, and health insurance
  3. Environmental: Natural resources management and sustainable agronomic management

There are NGOs, organisations and certifications that exist to make coffee more sustainable through many actions. Some such actions are:

  • Building schools for rural communities
  • Teaching women how to farm to achieve gender equality
  • Designing sustainable agronomic infrastructure 
  • Working on economic plans to secure a better income for the farm workers
  • Promoting the cultivation of beans that are sustainably grown

Some certifications you might recognise yourself, maybe you even noticed them on your own bag of beans. I am going to briefly cover them for you so you know exactly what the label says when you’re about to buy those coffee beans. 

What are coffee certifications 

Have you ever seen the words “fair trade certified” on a bag of coffee beans? Well, that’s a type of certification! Coffee certifications are actually very important for promoting a sustainable coffee industry because:

  1. They guide the farmers on ways to be more sustainable
  2. They help the farms sell their harvest at a much better price
  3. They ensure you can buy coffee that is not only tasty but also sustainably grown

Let’s have a look at the most common coffee certifications, what their goal is and most importantly, what does this have to do with you.

Different types of coffee certifications

Fair Trade

Fair Trade USA is an NGO with a focus on improving farmers’ livelihoods, building safe working conditions, developing sustainable farming practices and helping farmers pay higher wages to workers, all in exchange for a certification that allows them to sell their harvest at a higher price.

Direct Trade

Direct Trade is a business practice that bypasses the middleman, eg. the importer. Coffee roasters buy their beans directly from the farm, thus building long-lasting relationships of trust over the years. The roasters usually search for the best coffee beans and pay a higher price that helps the community. 


Certified organic coffee is a brilliant way to promote coffee sustainability as it pertains to farming practices that focus on the impact on biodiversity. This means a reduction on the use of pesticides, herbicides, and GMO crops.

This might be news for you but farming practices produce agro-chemicals that often end up in the water supply around the farm, thus affecting the biodiversity and the local communities. Growing organic coffee puts a stop to these chemicals!

Rainforest Alliance 

The last certification I am going to cover is focusing on encouraging farmers to plan their farming and resources effectively as well as improving sustainable practices. What’s good about this certification is that if the farm doesn’t yet meet all the criteria to get it, they still get the reward if they can show they are taking steps towards sustainability. 

What’s your role in this

Well, if you’ve read this far we both know you are looking to try sustainably grown coffee beans and for that you should be proud because you’re making a difference to the lives of these farmers and communities. Coffee is often their livelihood and we owe our favourite daily habit to them. 

We’ve put together a list of coffee beans that have one or more of these certifications to help you with choosing: 

All of Volcanica Coffee beans packaging is committed to be sustainable and Compact by Design. With the removal of excess air and water, products require less packaging and become more efficient to ship

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using these links. Remember to support us by purchasing through the Amazon/Walmart/Impact Radius links provided. Last update on 2023-11-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Disclosure: No compensation or free products were received in exchange for writing this review.

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Vasileia Fanarioti

My name is Vasileia and I’m here because i decided to combine my two favourite things: writing and coffee. Don’t ever make me choose between filter and espresso, although I do have a soft spot for flat whites. I love travelling around the world and visiting coffee shops but my biggest goal is to visit a few coffee farms, to see where it all starts. Hopefully soon I’ll take you there through my articles.