Yet coffee is one of the most devastating crops grown on the planet — ‘sun cultivated’ coffee has resulted in the destruction of forests and biodiversity and requires vast amounts of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Byproducts of ‘sun cultivated’ coffee includes contaminated water, devastated songbird species, degraded water and poisoned workers. This issue has garnered attention from the Smithsonian Institute and the World Wildlife Foundation among other organizations. One of the best sites dedicated to coffee and its impacts is Coffee & Conservation–go, check it out.
Environmental and labor issues aside, a coffee habit usually involves a lot of paper (filters and cups) and energy (electricity to brew, roasting). It only takes a few steps to make your morning pot of coffee greener–and save you money, too. Check out some of the ways you can do it:
* Use a reusable coffee mug or cup–obviously a paper cup 365 days a year means 365 cups and lids. One travel coffee mug is exactly that–ONE. Less environmental impact, less waste, less money spent.
* Use a gold coffee filter basket instead of buying filters. Enviro-Girl bought hers over 6 years ago for less than $10. She cleans out the grounds first with a spoon (dumping them into the compost bowl) and then rinses out the filter to use again. And again. And again. Less environmental impact, less waste, less money.
* Use unbleached coffee filters if you must use paper filters.
* French-pressed coffee uses less energy if you use an electric teakettle, but if you have a coffeemaker with bells and whistles, unplug it while it’s not in use–that clock uses electricity 24/7.
* Brew your own. Duh. You can’t buy a cup of coffee from a store for less than it costs to brew it at home. Home brewing instead of driving to your local barista saves you time, money and energy.
* If you do go to a coffee shop, go local. Locally owned and operated coffee shops generally buy fair trade and organic coffees and teas and keep more money in local economies.
* DO NOT BUY COFFEE from Nestle (Nescafe, Taster’s Choice), Proctor & Gamble (Folgers, Millstone), Kraft (Yuban, Maxwell House, Brim, Chase & Sanborn, General Foods INternational Coffee, Gevalia, Kenco, Maxim, Sanka), or Sara Lee (Senseo, Douwe Egberts, Hills Brothers, MJB). Known as “The Big Four,” these companies deliver over 70% of US coffee. They sell inferior beans raised on coffee plantations where farmers toil under horrible conditions. Nothing is cheap–someone somewhere pays a price for a less expensive cup of coffee. Duh. This is as much an environmental issue as it is a human rights issue. Don’t buy this crap and don’t support their low standards. Period.
* Buy organic and/or fair trade coffee. It’ll still cost less than a venti-triple-skinny-mocha (Can you tell Enviro-Girl doesn’t go to Starbucks much?). It’ll support working farmers and support sustainable farming practices. It’ll taste as good or better than the cup o’ Joe you’re currently drinking. Enviro-Girl likes Green Mountain Coffee, but she’s also drunk a fair share fo Equal Exchange. A package of Green Mountain Beans costs $8.50–a week’s worth of coffee in Enviro-Girl’s house. That’s 8 or fewer cups of coffee to-go from any restaurant, coffee shop or convenience store.