Next time you wrap your hands around that steamy cup of joe, take a minute to consider the impact your morning coffee has on the planet. According to a study published in the most recent issue of BioScience, coffee is wreaking havoc on the environment now more than ever. The culprit is modern coffee farms, which grow beans in full sunlight at the expense of shady trees, which provide habitat for wildlife, control erosion and boost soil health. But luckily, there is something you can do to lessen the impact of your latte.

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Coffee plants evolved in the shady undergrowth of the East African Jungle, and for hundreds of years humans cultivated the plants in the shade. By contrast, modern planting takes advantage of direct sunlight, which can increase crop yields. However the loss of trees leads to fewer bats and insect-killing birds and less nutritious soil, which translates to the increased need for pesticides and fertilizers. Today’s sun-loving coffee farm is really not much better for the environment than a field of pesticide-hungry soybeans or corn.

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Between 1996 and 2010, the number of coffee farms that used traditional shade growing methods has dropped from 43 to 24 percent. By 2010, the number of unshaded coffee farms reached an all-time high, despite some trends towards higher quality, sustainably grown beans. Even Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts beans are often grown in full-sun farms, despite the fact that they use the arabica bean, which is more likely to be grown in shade than the cheaper full-sun robusta bean.

To make sure that your coffee is guilt-free, look for beans certified by the Rainforest Alliance or the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. And while organic and fair-trade beans certainly have other benefits, keep in mind that those certifications don’t necessarily denote shade grown beans.

Via Huffington Post

Lead image via d’n’c, image via McKay Savage