Coffee, Tea, and Juice
It seems you can't turn a corner without running into a coffee shop. Even elementary-age kids are well versed in all the coffees available, even swaggering up to the counter to order their own café latte or cappuccino. Tea shops are also cropping up around the country, and many watering holes offer both beverages in a variety of flavors.
There are some things to think about as the coffee makes its way to the grinder, the brewer, and then into a cup. The environment suffers at the expense of coffee's popularity. Often, when land is cleared and coffee trees are planted, pesticides and fertilizers are needed to support an increasing demand.
Some organizations combat this by encouraging shade-grown coffee, where trees are either planted within the existing forests, or other plants, like fruit trees, are incorporated into the planting. Fewer fertilizers and pesticides are needed with this method.
The shade provided by the trees protects the plants from direct sun and rain and helps maintain soil quality. This means fewer weeds, reducing the need for fertilizers and herbicides. The shade also provides homes for birds that feed on insects, eliminating the need for pesticides. When the natural forest is left intact, migratory birds and other native species are impacted less.
Tea — real tea — comes from evergreen plants in India, China, Africa, Japan, and Sri Lanka. Its soothing flavor not only calms the soul but is reported to reduce cholesterol, improve immunity, and even fight cavities.
Tea leaves are picked by hand and then go through a series of steps before being steamed in cups of warm water. The leaves are spread out so they can dry, or wither, before being processed through a rolling machine where they are twisted. The rolls are then broken up and the tea is laid out on tile floors in cool damp rooms. Finally, the teas are dried.
Organizations such as the USDA and the Organic Trade Association encourage environmentally friendly methods of growing tea. Incorporating nature into the growing process can help avoid the need for pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers. Using compost and natural organic matter can deter weeds. Crop rotation and mulching can encourage spider and earthworm populations that are helpful in destroying harmful insects and in optimizing soil quality.
Orange juice can be green. Before gulping down your juice on the way out the door, consider where it came from and how it got to the table.
Pesticides have been used to protect crops, but organic companies are leading the charge toward less pesticide use. Organic fruit juice generally relies on family farms to provide the needed fruits and vegetables.
One example comes from Organic Valley, a cooperative that includes more than 700 farmers, roughly 10 percent of the organic farming community in the United States. The Roper family, a member of the co-op, has been farming orange groves in Florida for five generations. They turned to organic practices in 1995, and with the switch came the realization that without pesticides and other chemicals the oranges have more fruit solids and better taste.