The world consumes around 1400 million cups of coffee per day! It’s the second most popular drink, right after water. Unfortunately, that means a lot of waste, America alone uses 16 billon paper cups for coffee every year, and that doesn’t include all of the Styrofoam and plastic cups. Coffee is also causing deforestation in Latin America and large amount of chemicals are also used when producing coffee, which harms the environment and wildlife. And an estimated 37 gallons of water are needed to produce one small cup of coffee.
There are many ways to be a more socially and environmentally responsible coffee drinker. It all starts with what kind of coffee you buy. Some things to look for in coffee is that it is certified organic- this will help reduce some of the environmental impact and is better for you, Fair Trade certified- this means your coffee was produced by people being paid fair wages, with safe working conditions, and that no child labour was used, and another thing to look for, though it’s harder to find, is shade-grown coffee. Coffee grown in the traditional way in the shade helps mimic the way coffee naturally grows and helps protect the forests and requires less pesticides. If you can find a coffee that is locally roasted, that’s a bonus as you are then helping to support a local business.
Once you have your coffee you want to make it in the most sustainable way. My favorite way and one of the greenest ways is to use a glass french press. They don’t require filters and are free of the toxic plastic you find in most coffee makers. Many also find the coffee is much better and less bitter, as the coffee isn’t burned like it often is in drip machines. They also don’t require electricity, though you will have to use some to boil the water. Don’t forget that your coffee grounds have many uses, put them around your plants to keep cats away, put them in your garbage disposal to deodorize it, or compost them.
Many people enjoy getting coffee out and that can be greener as well. Ask your local coffee shop if they carry any coffees that carry some or all of the certificates that I talked about earlier in the post, if they don’t ask if they will start. Also be sure to bring your own reusable mug or if drinking in the coffee shop, see if they have in house mugs.
Doing these things can help greatly reduce the impact we have when we drink coffee. There is still an impact but every little bit helps and let’s be honest, for many of us coffee is our drug. So if we can’t live without it, we can at least do a bit better.
Here are some yummy coffee recipes, if you would like to skip the coffee shop and green up your coffee at home.
Lisa Sharp is passionate about green living, organic food, animals, and natural medicine. She is an environmental activist, green living expert, and freelance writer. Lisa has a green living blog, Retro Housewife Goes Green and is also the founder of Green Oklahoma. You can follow Lisa on twitter and Facebook.