For most of us, there’s nothing that can get in between us and our morning cup of coffee—not even the fact that our cups of ‘liquid gold’ are responsible for biodiversity loss, excessive fertilizer use, water pollution and contamination, and deforestation (to the tune of 2.5 million acres in Central America alone!).
But since the average American drank 1.87 cups of coffee a day in 2020 (up from 1.64 cups in 2016), it’s clear that the intoxicating aroma, rich smoky flavor, and burst of caffeine isn’t going to be replaced by another beverage any time soon. Fortunately, we can still feed our addictions—and do so in a way that’s better for the planet—thanks to these sustainable coffee brands.
8 Great Sustainable Coffee Brands
1. Higher Ground Roasters
There are three main things that make for a good cup of coffee: fair trade wages and support for farmers, organic practices, and using shade-grown beans (which preserves natural habitats). Higher Ground coffee ticks all of these boxes.
When you get a bag of Higher Ground coffee, you can be sure that it’s 100% certified organic, fair trade, and shade-grown.
But it gets even better. Higher Ground also offsets their daily energy use through the purchase of wind power credits from Renewable Choice Energy. They also have blends that support nonprofits like The Black Warrior Riverkeeper and The Cahaba River Society—in addition to supporting their farmers with fair wages and economic and educational support.
Available: Higher Ground Roasters
DOMA also sources certified organic coffee beans for most of their blends, and they have a certified organic roaster and facility to boot. They source their coffee from some of the main global coffee growing regions—like Guatemala, Ethiopia, and Brazil.
Where they really stand apart from some other sustainable coffee brands, however, is with their compostable bags! Once the tin tie, label, and plastic valve are removed, the bag can be composted and will break down in a couple of months.
Additionally, DOMA works with local organic farms to repurpose some of their waste, like coffee chaff and grounds.
3. Stumptown Roasters
Stumptown may be based out of Portland, Oregon, but they’ve become a household name nationwide. They’ve been on a mission to perfect every step of coffee, which is why they pay special attention to where they source their beans from as well as how they’re roasted.
With a team that has a collective 121 years of roasting experience, they’ve perfected this art and are happy to bring out the best in each and every cup of coffee.
Their sustainability efforts, however, take place well before the roasting process. For about half of every year, their coffee team travels around the globe to meet with producer partners and tour their farms in Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Colombia, Guatemala, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Indonesia, Rwanda, and Peru.
Not only are their farmers paid much more than they would receive from commodity market prices, but Stumptown actually pioneered the Direct Trade model of sourcing that has been replicated by other brands. By forming long-term relationships with producers, they’re able to support practices that are environmentally and financially sustainable.
Most of the coffee they sell is Direct Trade and some is Certified Organic. The farmers they work with use heirloom varietals and rarely use pesticides (if at all).
4. Pura Vida Coffee
In 1998 Pura Vida coffee did something revolutionary in the world of coffee. Not only did they roast fair trade and organic coffee beans, but they also use their profits to fund programs to help at-risk youth around the world. They were one of the first businesses to make a good cup of coffee really good.
The brand has established a nonprofit called Create Good Foundation. It funds projects for children in at-risk communities. Current projects include healthy living programs with the YMCA, a partnership with Ugandan schools, and support for impoverished youth in Costa Rica.
Additionally, they support their growers with fair prices that allow them to support their family. Pura Vida sources organic arabica beans that are handpicked in some of the world’s best coffee growing regions before being slow-roasted locally (in Washington) in small batches.
Most of their coffee is shade-grown as well, which means that traditional methods are used to preserve the natural ecology, which results in less soil erosion and provides an important habitat for native and migratory bird species.
Available: Pura Vida
5. Cafe Mam
Cafe Mam has a simple wish: to change the world through coffee. They make this happen by only sourcing fair trade, organic, and shade-grown coffee from indigenous cooperatives. They partner with Mayan farmers in Mexico who realize that by taking care of the soil, they’re actually supporting the entire biosystem.
Using sustainable practices not only helps the farmers heal the earth, but also provides them with a means for self-sufficiency and political independence. Every purchase of Cafe Mam coffee also provides living wages in addition to funds that support the farmers even more with nutrition support and education, organic agriculture classes, and the promotion of a progressive group of thinkers.
From a sustainability standpoint, Cafe Mam is doing everything they can to minimize their footprint. Their packaging materials are 100% recyclable or compostable, the coffee itself is packaged in compostable bags with plant-based linings—meaning that it’s 100% compostable after removing the tin-tie. Their delivery vehicles even use locally-sourced biofuels!
2% of all coffee sales also get donated to nonprofit organizations that support organic agriculture practices and/or social justice and environmental causes.
Available: Cafe Mam
6. Larry’s Coffee
Larry’s Coffee also wants to use business as a force of good. The Certified B-Corp is a founding member of Cooperative Coffees, a group of roasters who source their coffee directly from farmers to ensure fairness.
All of their coffee is organic, fair trade, and shade-grown. They partner with small-farm cooperatives (mostly around 2 to 5 acres) in 16 countries across the globe. Their farmers are supported with long-term relationships and fair wages.
The coffee is roasted in a Raleigh, NC factory that uses passive-solar and captures rainwater. Composting, reuse of resources, and local biodiesel also help Larry’s Coffee minimize their carbon footprint.
7. Salt Spring Coffee
Salt Spring Coffee got their start when two friends used a converted popcorn maker to try their hand at roasting coffee. By 1996, they were in a full-fledged business! They use organic, fair trade, and shade-grown coffee.
Since 2010, Salt Spring Coffee has been a Certified B Corp, meaning that they go above and beyond for our planet and the people that produce their coffee. For customers in BC, they use compostable and recyclable packaging and they’re currently exploring sustainable packaging options for all of their customers.
They also partner with Climate Smart to measure and reduce their carbon footprint and donate to environmental organizations as a member of 1% for the Planet.
Available: Salt Spring Coffee
Far surpassing organic, ZenBunni uses regenerative and biodynamic coffee in their blends. These farming practices restore soil fertility, sequester carbon, and enhance biodiversity. In fact, regenerative agriculture is one of the best ways to not only slow down climate change, but actually reverse it!
80% of the world’s coffee comes from about 25 million smallholder farms—and there are only about a dozen of those that are Certified Biodynamic! ZenBunni gets their coffee from these farms, and they support them with fair trade prices.
The coffee is then roasted by a family-operated roaster who only works with organic beans. A careful micro roasting process means that more antioxidants are retained, including nutrients that protect against inflammation and cell damage.
The coffee comes in an omnidegradable pouch (meaning that 100% of it will break down naturally). It features a compostable label that uses planet-friendly inks.
Final Thoughts on Sustainable Coffee Brands
In addition to sourcing your coffee from one of these earth-friendly coffee brands, you can also use some of these other tips to make your daily coffee habit more sustainable.
We’d love to know how you’re getting your caffeine fix. If you have any other sustainable coffee brands that you love, please share them in the comments below!