Green Up Your Morning Coffee Routine with these Sustainable Tips
We know you love your morning cup-of-joe but have you ever stopped to think about what that cup of coffee costs the planet?
Considering how many Starbucks you can count in one mere block of New York City, I’m sure it comes at no surprise that coffee is an incredibly sought after commodity in the world and a huge billion dollar industry. However, despite the high demand, coffee farmers living in developing countries struggle to earn a sustainable living off of their crop. The farmer’s low profit, which is usually around 5-10 percent of the final retail price, leaves these growers with no safety margin and many of their human rights abused. The other way our coffee consumption is affecting our planet is environmentally, as disposable coffee cups are amongst the leading culprits in our current waste pollution problem.
So what moves can we be making on a daily basis to ensure our coffee addiction isn’t harming the planet and the well-being of those on it?
Choose Direct and Fair Trade Beans
According to the World Wildlife Fund, of the 50 countries with the highest deforestation rates from 1990 to 1995, 37 were coffee producers.
A whopping 90% of the world’s coffee production occurs in developing countries. When you stop to think about the big bucks the coffee industry is making, it’s shocking to think that those doing the really hard work are barely making ends’ meet. To ensure the farmers and their families make a sustainable living off their crop, Fair-Trade was instituted to provide the growers with a higher cut of the profit by creating direct relationships with the growers. By choosing direct and fair-trade beans, you’re supporting the international community of fair trade coffee producers while additionally showing your support for the environment. Toxic agrochemicals, pesticides and chemical additives are eliminated or reduced when you buy fair trade, as the majority of farmers use conscious, organic practices. What is more, many of the farmers utilize sustainable production methods when growing their crop. It’s a feel-good choice all around.
Buy from Certified B Corporations
You may have seen this certification floating around but you may not know what it actually means. B Corp companies meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance, dedicating their time and their profits towards reducing inequality, lowering poverty and contributing to cleaner environments. In simple terms, these companies simply try and be better, in whatever capacity that means for them. As these companies are forces of good, you will feel good about shelling the extra few bucks for your bag of beans.
Some great B Corp coffee companies doing better include the following:
Re-think your brewing method
We’re not trying to stand between you and your morning coffee; we know convenience is important when you’re running on empty and caffeine is the only solution. However, it may be time to reconsider your reusable pod usage. Though many pods are marketed as ‘recyclable’, they are actually rarely recycled due to the combination of plastic and metal, meaning they have to be processed in special facilities. So instead, they end up in landfill where they will disintegrate into microplastics for us or the fishies to ingest later. Efficient, sure, but incredibly wasteful… absolutely.
Not to mention, there are plenty of other great ways to brew great coffee at home. Try a simple French Press or even a pour-over (if you’re investing in good beans, it’s worth investing a few extra minutes for what is considered the best brew method). Or, if you currently have a Keurig or another pod-based coffee machine, invest in refillable or compostable pods.
Ditch Single-Use Filters
The paper filters used for your Chemex or drip brewer are generally good for a one-time use, meaning they are costly for both the planet and your wallet. However, some unbleached filters, like these from If You Care (big fan of their guilt-tripping brand name) do have much lower environmental impacts in that they can be composted, if disposed of correctly. You can also reduce excess brewing waste by using a reusable filter like these 100% organic-cotton ones which are simple to use and much easier on the wallet. Peep Etsy, as well, where you can find sweet little coffee filters made of bamboo and hemp.
Invest in a Reusable Mug
One of the leading culprits in our plastic pollution crisis is disposable coffee cups; 50 billion of which end up in landfill per year. Avoid getting your coffee in one of these convenient albeit wasteful coffee cups and invest in a reusable one like this barista-standard gem from Keepcup. Keep it in your bag or car and whip out when you're ready for your next caffeine fix. And if you forget it (I can speak to how often this can happen), do like the Europeans do and ask for your coffee in a mug to enjoy at the cafe. Slow down and take a 10 minute break to actually enjoy your coffee- you deserve it!
compost your coffee grounds
Your responsibility doesn’t have to end after you’ve enjoyed your cuppa! Take those ethical coffee grounds and dump them into your compost bin (your new compostable coffee filters can also go in!). The contribution of coffee grounds adds nitrogen to your green compost pile, which is essential for plant growth. If you have a worm bin, add some used coffee grounds a little bit at a time once a week; the addition of the organic material will keep your worms super happy. After all, we shouldn’t be the only ones enjoying all that coffee has to give! Additionally, you can add the grounds directly to your garden, which can help the garden soil retain more water and decrease weed growth. Or, if your winter skin is as dry as mine, reuse your coffee grounds to make your own exfoliating scrubs; a simple Pinterest search will yield hundreds of recipes that are sure to combat flaky skin and bring back your glow!