A movement has taken hold in recent years to bring sustainability to the forefront of the coffee industry. It has always been Vournas Coffee Trading’s goal not only to provide amazing specialty coffee and enrich the lives of the farmers that provide it to us, but to protect this amazing world in which we live in. Economic and social sustainability go hand in hand with environmental sustainability. Thus we work with growers that use sustainable practices that minimize any negative impact growing and processing coffee may have on the environment. We also emphasize relationships with nonprofit organizations whose missions are to improve the health and economic lives of the farmers and their families.
Environmental Sustainable Practices Used in Coffee
Sustainable farming practices are critical in the efforts to support the environment in a positive way. By combining practices such as root bending and selective pruning with natural shade canopies, farmers can grow stronger trees that produce additional crop in subsequent years. The planting of alternative crops, such as banana trees, when grown alongside Arabica coffee, create shade coverage that provide numerous benefits. Tall trees promote biodiversity by creating a healthy plant and animal habitat for birds, bees and small animals. A single coffee plantation is capable of supporting hundreds of species of beneficial plants and animals that in turn support the ecosystem. The presence of a strong ecosystem has proven to decrease the population of crop-damaging insects as well as decrease reliance on chemical pesticides and insecticides.
Clean water is critical for maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Wastewater from coffee being processed at the mill can contain natural elements from the beans. These elements, if not filtered, can be released into local water sources. This in turn can cause algal bloom in the lakes and streams thus altering the natural balance of the environment. Adding filters to fermentation tanks can stop the release of natural vapors. Additionally, the use of vetiver grass and holding ponds which treat the waste water, stop the release of byproducts from reaching the water sources, thus conserving and maintaining the ecosystem.
Fair Trade Pricing and Environmental, Economic and Social Sustainability
Fair Trade is an effort in the coffee industry that is designed to promote sustainability and to help producers achieve better pricing and thus improve their overall quality and standards of living. Vournas Coffee Trading believes in paying fair and just prices for the best coffees. We have always rewarded our farmers with our own version of fair pricing and in a sense rewarding the farmers for growing great coffee. We also support Fair Trade efforts and continue to pay Fair Trade premiums for exceptional coffees. We hunt for the best beans, and we pay a premium for them, many of which are organically grown. We build strong supply chains with long-term partnerships and friendships with our growers. The increasing amount of Fair Trade Economic benefits the farmers receive as they continue to grow more organic coffee is helping to ensure that farmers all over the world are able to meet their everyday needs and to improve their living standards and income earning potential.
VCT Supporting Economic and Social Sustainability
Through the years Vournas Coffee has provided support for the farmers and their families at source. This support ranges from delivering desks and school supplies so children are able to attend school in Papua New Guinea, to giving soccer balls so children can participate in outdoor sports. In Azabache, Honduras, Vournas Coffee helped teach local women roasters better roasting and cupping techniques. These women had never tasted their own coffee and the knowledge they gained empowered them to grow their business, expand their personal income and improve the local economy. Vournas Coffee has also funded a scholarship for a Mexican girl named Anna, whose long term goal is to receive an Engineering degree, put the degree to use in her local community, and thus have a lasting impact on the lives of many.
Everyone involved in the production of specialty coffee has an important role and we all have to work together as we achieve our goals. Vournas Coffee Trading supports several programs that our employees and our roasters can participate in, and they can donate as much as they would like. The companies listed below are ones that Vournas Coffee currently supports because of their work in in environmental, economic and social sustainability at source.
The Roya Leaf Rust that hit the Central American coffee growing regions decimated coffee trees and some regions lost up to 75% of its crops, literally millions of trees. Through the Growers First “Plant a Tree” program thousands of saplings have been given to farmers in Oaxaca, Mexico to replace their crop that was lost. Vournas Coffee Trading supports Growers First efforts, and Andrew Vournas, CEO of Vournas Coffee, personally handed out saplings to families in this region. It will take 3 years for the trees to be full grown, but once they do they will be healthier and rust resistant. With the “Clean Water Filter”, also headed by Growers First, we provided and helped assemble filters to 25 families in Honduras and 25 families in Mexico to help cut down on bacteria borne disease and illnesses, and produce essential clean drinking water.
Coffeelands Foundation “Penny-A-Pound” program strengthens coffee growing communities by funding organizations seeking to provide food security, providing access to education and health care; and improving economic stability and resilience. Our roasters can specify a dollar amount to donate directly to this program, and Vournas Coffee will match this donation.
Health care is often insufficient in the coffee growing regions, but Grounds for Health is one organization making tremendous headway in improving the lives of women. Their mission is to reduce cervical cancer among women in developing countries. Vournas Coffee supports the Grounds For Health online auction, through donating bags of coffee, that raises funds for this mission. Since 1999 over 61,000 women have been screened and 4100 have been treated for positive screening results.