Worldwide, it’s the second most consumed beverage after water. Worldwide, it’s the second most traded commodity after oil. These two statistics alone should give you a sense for the enormous impact coffee has on our lives, and thus our environment.
Now that I've quit Diet Coke, I drink a cup every morning to avoid the caffeine headaches. And since I'm greening my beverages, I need to make sure my coffee is as green as it can be. Here are five ways I've found to green my coffee:
1. Home Brew
The best way to control the green-ness of your coffee is to home brew. Here you have more control over what coffee you're making, can easily use your own mug, and can minimize or recycle the waste that comes from it. It also reduces the carbon emissions you create while driving to the local Starbucks.
2. Learn eco-etiquette at Starbucks (or your local coffee shop).
Pressed for time every morning? Don't own a coffee pot? If you have to go to your local coffee shop, learn what they can do for you to support going green. For example:
- Did you know that you receive a $.10 discount on coffee at Starbucks for bringing your own mug? Talk about a latte factor - you could save $36 over the course of the year.
- Ask for fair trade. Fair trade coffee is more environmentally friendly (see below) and Starbucks is obligated to provide it for you if you ask.
- Get a green cup. Tully's now provides a fully compostable, biodegradable coffee cup. It's better if you bring your own mug, but this is not a bad alternative.
3. Buy local
Minimizing food miles is a good guideline whenever trying to green food or drink. Food miles are the distance the food traveled to reach you.
In practice, doing this for coffee is somewhere difficult since 99% of coffee is cultivated in South America, Asia, and Africa. Still, once the coffee is picked, it needs to go somewhere to be roasted and packaged. By supporting local roasters, you can minimize the food miles of your coffee.
Those that live in the Pacific Northwest can find locally roasted coffee brands at Locals Only.
4. Buy fair trade
Since going green, I've learned a great deal about Fair Trade Certification, and the standards a company has to meet in order to achieve this title. In addition to work and fair pay standards, Fair Trade companies must meet rigorous standards for environmentally sound agricultural practices. They don't have to go so far as to be organic, but they do need to practice sustainable agriculture.
The Songbird website can help you find hundreds of local places that sell coffee that meets this certification.
5. Waste not
As with all food and beverages, minimizing waste is important. Look for minimal and recyclable packaging on your coffee. Find a rocking mug you can use again and again.
If you home brew, don't use a paper filter. With most coffee pots, it's totally unnecessary. That gold filter that comes with your pot can go in the dishwasher, and should be enough to filter your coffee through.
If you compost, don't forget to compost your used coffee grounds. If you don't, you should be able to put them in your yard waste container for your recycling provider to compost. Check with your local recycling company.