ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How Your Coffee is Affecting the Globe

Updated on November 13, 2015

Fair Trade Coffee and It's Impact on the Globe

Coffee is one of the most popular commodities in industrialized countries around the world. Americans and Europeans in particular are infamous for ‘depending’ on coffee to get through their average work day. Starbucks’, Dunkin’ Donuts’, Costa Coffee, and countless other cafes line the streets of the biggest cities in the world and are present in the smallest and most isolated towns. With the countless gallons of coffee pouring in to our systems, it would make even a teetotaler twitch to learn where their favorite pick-me-up comes from.

"Fair-Trade" is Not Always What It Seems

Fair Trade
Fair Trade | Source

The Journey Coffee Takes Before It Reaches Your Cup.

Coffee is predominantly farmed and produced in impoverished South American regions, usually on large farms in very poor regions. Conditions on these plantations varies according to a number of reports, however, the general consensus is that these farms are usually not up to any international health and safety standards. Workers on these plantations usually make similar wages to sweat-shop workers, labor outside in extreme weather conditions, and are forced to work for long hours under these and other dangerous environments.

Harvesting Coffee Beans in Laos
Harvesting Coffee Beans in Laos | Source

In Guatemala, a small Central American country which is the second-greatest producer of coffee in the world, working conditions are appalling. Coffee is the primary export of this impoverished region, and over half of its brown gold is exported to the US. In this mostly rural country, 65% of the farm-able land is held by 2% of landowners.

Over 27% of the indigenous population is left without land, and as agriculture is the major industry, many Guatemalans are forced to work on other people’s land for whatever wages the overlords are willing to pay.

The International Coffee Crisis

On average, Guatemalan coffee farmers are told that they must meet the 100 pound quota in order to make $3 (US) a day. These workers operate as indentured servants, being forced to live on the land they farm, and usually are only allowed to shops at the plantation’s markets. Their living expenses are taken out of their very minimal pay. In some instances, the owners insist that the workers have cost the company more than they have made through work, and bring these workers and their families back year after year, sometimes at gunpoint, to pay off their ever-accruing debt – an impossible feat under this corrupt system.

According to, children as young as 6 often work the fields on these plantations, and there are no safety precautions taken to protect the young workers. Like many of the adults, these children also accrue debt through food and shelter expenses. Only approximately 13% of Central American coffee workers have completed elementary education.

The international coffee trade has a terrible environmental impact as well. In the 1980’s, the US gave over $80 million to have Central and South American farmers switch to a form of farming called ‘sun cultivation.’ This method involved cutting down over 1 million hectares (3861 square miles) of rain forest land to allow more sunlight onto the fields, increasing the amount of crops yielded. Pesticides and chemicals were used liberally, and much of the land became unusable after a very short time, inciting prospective farmers to cut down more forests for farmland. Soil and water continue to be damaged by the run off of these toxins, and much of the lush natural landscape will be damaged for many decades to come.

Why Choose Fair Trade Coffee?

How Will You Help the Coffee Crisis?

What Steps Will You Take To Change the Impact Coffee Trade Has On the World?

See results

The best solution to this coffee crisis has been the recent movement towards fair-trade products. Fair-trade farmers use methods like crop rotation, composting, and natural fertilizers in place of chemicals. Food is also cultivated along with the crops for profit, to ensure that the workers have amble enough to eat without forcing them to pay more than what they earn. Fair-trade programs are also responsible for complying with international health, safety, and labor laws, ensuring that workers are not taken advantage of, particularly in the poorer regions.

Currently, Starbucks uses 100% fair trade coffee, and Dunkin' Donuts as well as many other coffee distributors are switching as well. The more international coffee super-powers use fair trade coffee and other products, the injustices suffered by the workers and the damage done to the environment can be put to an end, permanently.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)