Coffee: Please Enjoy Responsibly

Hey Everyone!


So it’s been a few months since I published this guide to sustainable coffee and I thought I would update it with some seasonal suggestions! So, as summer winds down and pumpkin spice *ahem* autumn sneaks in, I thought I would share with you some of my favorite seasonal syrups! You can go the pre-made route from Flavoragnics or you can try out this DIY recipe from According to Elle! You can swap all the ingredients to organic ones to make it more sustainable. Since I am not a PSL fan *GASP* I prefer this delicious caramel recipe from Lindsay at Tales From the Cottage. I also would take this time to stock up on your favorite bulk herbs and spices which may have been depleted over the spring and summer.

So get a jump on fall this year by preparing some of your very own syrups and ditching the disposable cups for some homemade comfort.

Homemade pumpkin spice latte syrup...I made this & it's really good! Plus, your house smells amazing when cooking it!  No petroleum, carcinogens, artificial flavors or colors in this PSL!!!
PSL Syrup from According to Elle
Caramel Syrup from Tales from the Cottage


So as many of you know, I have a small caffeine addiction, meaning I consume more than the Canadian Health Guide recommends… just a little more… But it also means that I need to be cognizant of the types of coffee I purchase. You see conventionally grown coffee contributes to a myriad of environmental problems including but not limited to soil and water degradation due to erosion from irrigation and the use of synthetic fertilizers which cause nitrification of local waterways resulting in massive algae blooms, deforestation of tropical rain forests, destruction of fragile habitat due to monoculture crops and social justice issues associated with poorly compensated workers and exploitative working conditions. In general, coffee is marked up by 80% by the time you pick up your latte from Starbucks with growers receiving $0.30-0.50 USD per pound of coffee.

File:Toxic Algae Bloom in Lake Erie.jpg
Lake Erie 2011, algae blooms by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon (NASA Earth Observatory) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
So when buying sustainable coffee beans and coffee products what do you want to look for? Look for packages with the following symbols:
Related imageRelated imagefairtrade Canada logoImage result for fair trade logoImage result for rainforest alliance coffee

Organic symbols from the USDA and  Canada indicate that the foods or products sold contain a minimum of 70%- organic content, and may not contain any prohibited ingredients. Only 95% and 100% organic products may be labeled as so. Organic symbols indicate not only has the product been grown organically (not using prohibited synthetic fertilizers and pesticides), but that they have met certain environmental management requirements and undergo 3rd party audits. Fair trade symbols from Fairtrade Canada and Fair Trade Certified indicate that not only do farmers work in co-op’s and have collective agreements with buyers, but that their products receive a minimum price and a fair trade premium which in 44% of which is spent on local community improvements. Fair trade also prohibits the use of GMO’s. The Rainforest Alliance symbol indicates that the product has some of the highest standards in their growing and production on the planet. Their products are both held to very high social and environmental standards including meeting those of  Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) and Global Sustainable Tourism Council.


So where can you buy organic and fair trade coffee? Well basically every grocery store will carry organic and fair trade coffee, but not all are created or priced equally! So here are my Top 5 Organic and Fair Trade coffee brands and where I buy them.

  1.  Ethical Bean. Lush. Bold, medium/dark roast. $16.99 CAD/ 2 lb  bag at Costco. Also available at Whole Foods, Save On Foods, Safeway, Thrifty’s and London Drugs. Organic, Fair Trade and B Corporation Certified. Canadian Company. ***Absolutely without a doubt the best bang for your buck!***
  2. Zavida Coffee Roasters. Dark roast, less bold. $16.99 CAD/2 lb bag at Costco. USDA and Canadian Organic, Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance Cert. and Trees for the Future project. Canadian Company.
  3. Doi Chaang Coffee Company. All their roasts are great! $12.99 and up. For a period of time the Costco I frequented sold it for $16.99 CAD/ 2 lb bag, but I haven’t seen it there since. Available at major grocery retailers including Whole Foods, Save On Foods, Safeway, Thrifty’s and London Drugs. USDA Organic and Doi Chaang claims they go “beyond fair trade” by investing in the coffee farmers, originally the Akha Hill Tribe in Thailand and now others. Started by a Vancouver investor, the company was originally a 50/50 partnership which has evolved beyond that after the original group became self-sufficient and sustainable business-wise. Canadian/International Company.
  4. Level Ground Trading Company. Tanzania. Bold dark roast. $14.99 CAD/ 2 lb bag at Costco. Also available at Whole Foods, Save On Foods, Safeway, Thrifty’s and London Drugs. USDA and Canadian Organic cert. Company does “direct fair trade” with co-ops and collective farmers. Very transparent price charts available. Canadian Company.
  5. Kicking Horse Coffee. All their roasts are great! $9.99-12.99/1 lb bag and major grocery retailers like Whole Foods, Save On Foods, Safeway and Thrifty’s. USDA and Canadian Organic, Fair Trade. Canadian Company.


If you are weary of buying whole beans because you don’t own a grinder or don’t like the idea of having to grind coffee, take your beans to the bulk section of the grocery store. They usually have a industrial coffee grinder there and you can grind up your beans before you even leave the grocery store by dumping them all in and then dispensing them back into the same bag or the bags they have available. I have gotten some weird looks from the cashiers, but no one has ever scolded me … LOL

Looking for green ways to enjoy your coffee beverages? Ditch the disposables and check out these awesome Stainless Steel Tumblers with Straw and these adorable KeepCup Brew Glass Reusable Coffee Cups.

Final Words

Organic and Fair Trade certifications are great as they promote and attempt to monitor the quality, price and soundness of their products; however, they don’t come without their faults. Becoming certified requires a certain amount of financial investment and knowledge, resulting in many farmers and cooperatives being left out of the market due to their socio-economic conditions. Being cognizant of this fact will keep you open to new products which may be labeled with certifications other than the ones mentioned above such as those steps taken by the Doi Chaang Company. If you like the sound of a product but aren’t sure of the potential of greenwashing (aka deceitful marketing) do a quick google on the company and read their story. As always avoid products which claim to be “natural” or “environmentally friendly” without any explanation.



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