If you’re anything like me, you likely don’t go more than a few days without a cup of coffee. The intoxicating smell, the meditative brewing process, not to mention the razor sharp focus it gives me to help get anything done in the day, I still don’t fully understand how some people get by without it!
Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world just behind oil (crazy, right?) so it’s no surprise that the coffee industry has a big impact on the environment. So, what can we, the consumers change about our coffee habits to reduce this impact? Luckily, there’s a lot of ways to go about it! Here’s the 6 ways I try and reduce my impact from drinking coffee.
1.Use a Reusable Cup
This is something that’s been touted for years as a way to reduce the environmental impact of our coffee consumption. Sure, it can be a little annoying but once you get in the habit of remembering to grab your favourite to-go mug, you can rest easy knowing you’re not contributing yet another paper cup and plastic lid to the landfill. If you forget your cup, try to get away with not using the extra sleeve, or the lid, if you can.
In the long run, with us being less dependent on cups and lids, the companies making them will get the consumption feedback and make less. I find many people can have the opinion that what they do as a single person won’t have an impact, but this is exactly how all of us acting together can really make a big difference. If even just 1000 people stop using paper cups for their everyday coffee, that’s more than 30,000 cups per year that a company isn’t producing and aren’t going to the landfill.
2.Buy From Eco-Friendly Sources
The coffee industry is notorious for their focus on organic, fair-trade farming, but this doesn’t necessarily mean eco-friendly. Did you know that the mass deforestation of many countries (Remember Brazil being the news recently?) is also due to the increased demand of coffee, planting coffee trees in the place of native forest. The best way to shop coffee eco-friendly is to talk to your local coffee roaster! They often have intimate relationships with their coffee farmers, not just their importers, and you can find out more about the growing practices of their beans. These will likely have much better production methods than the massive conglomerates, and you get to support local businesses.
3.Stop Using K-Cups!
This is probably another obvious one, but K-cups still penetrate workplaces and homes across the globe. Yes, they are ultra-convenient, but the fact that there is an equal amount of plastic to the amount of coffee they hold is mind boggling. K-cups are a huge drain on the environment, both from the raw materials required to make them, and the impact they have on our landfills and waste generation after a single cup is brewed.
4.Use Eco-Friendly Brewing Methods
Okay, no K-cups, so what are the most eco-friendly ways to brew? In my opinion, there’s two brewing types that make the most eco-friendly coffee: Pour Overs and French Press.
A pour over is basically like a hipster single serve drip coffee maker. Yes, it’s a drip coffee, not an espresso, but it’s more precise and you can really get more flavor and enjoy the beans to a greater degree. When you hear single serve, you may think that doesn’t sound very eco-friendly, but this is a great way to reduce waste – by not making more than you need. And, by using a reusable coffee filter, not paper ones, you can further reduce your waste.
French Presses are another great way to reduce your environmental impact, since they don’t have any disposable components. You put your coffee grounds in the bottom of the vessel, put the filter/lid on top, add hot water and plunge after they’ve had time to brew. These are sometimes preferable to pour overs since you can make larger amounts at one time.
5.Compost Your Coffee Grounds!
Now, this is a way to reduce your environmental impact across the board, not just with your coffee consumption, but it’s highly recommended regardless. There’s a few ways that composting reduces your impact on the environment. With less food waste going to the landfill, we can reduce the size of these landfills, the number of garbage bags used, the number of garbage trucks on the street, etc. And, the food waste and your coffee grounds will get broken down by bacteria and worms, and those essential nutrients will be reincorporated into plants, which can then use them to grow and reduce the CO2 in the air by just, breathing and growing! Can’t say enough good things about composting!
6.Cut the Dairy
There’s really nothing like a creamy latte or foamy cappuccino, don’t get me wrong, but you should be aware of the impact that the dairy industry has on the environment. This is another situation like paper cups, where the less we consume, the less that is produced, making a positive change on the environment. This issue is a little more difficult though, as it can also negatively affect farmers, who have supported our food supply chains for hundreds of years. Not everyone feels the same way about this one, but it’s just important to be informed so you can feel good about the choices you make. Once you try a great pour over coffee from your local coffee roaster, with no milk or cream in it, you may realize how great a cup of coffee can be without the dairy.
These are 6 main ways that I try to reduce my environmental impact from drinking coffee. If we all work together to reduce our impacts in small ways, I truly believe we can all do our part to reverse some damage and keep the planet healthy. I’m sure there are many ways I didn’t include, or haven’t thought of, so comment below if you have any others to share!