Coffee Talk: Sustainable Practices in the Coffee Industry

This week on Sea Change Radio, we talk coffee with two leading coffee experts to learn more about the cultivation, trade and regulation of the ubiquitous cup-a-joe.

First, Alex Wise speaks with Rainer Bussmann, the Director of the William L. Brown Center at the Missouri Botanical Garden as well as its Curator of Economic Botany. Next, we hear from Ted Howes, who is currently the Global Lead of Energy Domain at design firm IDEO, and previously served as a third-party sustainability auditor for Starbucks.

Since the middle of the fifteenth century when Sufi monks near the Yemeni town of Mokha first began brewing a beverage from these now famous beans, coffee has become the world’s seventh-most-valuable legal agricultural export. Americans alone consume 400 million cups of coffee a day – that’s 146 Billion cups of coffee per year; making the US the leading consumer of coffee in the world.

This much coffee consumption and cultivation has an impact on the environment, of course. The beverage’s worldwide popularity has raised issues around land and water use, and resulted in problems with pesticide run-off. But coffee has become a vital cash crop for many developing countries. Over one hundred million people in countries like Uganda, Burundi, and Ethiopia, as well as many Central American countries have become dependent on coffee as their primary source of income.