Coffee beans on a blue background for eco-friendly coffee drinker
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10 Ways to Be a More Eco-Friendly Coffee Drinker

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A Guest Post by Eco-friendly Coffee

As the consumption of coffee increases around the world, it’s becoming more essential to support ecologically friendly practices in your everyday coffee routine. This is mainly because the production of conventional coffee already has several negative influences on the environment, workers and local communities.

A real problem within the coffee industry is the amount of misinformation and obscure practices that have little information and proven data behind them.

If you’re looking to reduce your cup of coffee’s carbon footprint and negative impact on communities around the globe, we’ve listed 10 ways you can take small steps to become more sustainable with your cup of joe in the morning.

10 Ways to Become a More Eco-Friendly Coffee Drinker

1. Do your homework to identify responsibly sourced coffee, and then choose wisely.

coffee farmer holding sustainably sourced coffee beans

“Ethically-sourced coffee” is one term that might cause misunderstanding in the coffee industry. Although most people know that it is a good thing, few comprehend what it implies.  In the context of the coffee industry, this means that the coffee beans you just bought were cultivated in a way that demonstrated respect for both the person who grew them and the environment in which they were grown.

The common issue here is that data and information are often vague and skewed to paint corporations in a better light, such as Starbucks and Nestle. When we are looking at sustainable coffee certifications look for the certification that fits your ethical reasons for drinking eco-friendly coffee.

Bird Friendly is often reported as the most effective for environmental concerns, note that this certification holds much more weight than simply “shade grown” coffee claims. Organic USDA is another solid choice for the environment. Fair Trade is often regarded as the best when it comes to workers’ rights and local community impacts. You can also look for Direct or Alternative Trade, which focuses on working directly with the farmers.

2. Brew your coffee at home, rather than takeaways

Making coffee at home for the eco-friendly coffee drinker

The most eco-friendly way to include coffee into your daily routine is by brewing your own at home. The idea here is that less waste and energy is often used to get coffee into your cup.

In comparison to having coffee at a cafe, there are no disposable cups used at your home. Even though they may be recyclable or even compostable, not using them to begin with is the best option.

We’re not saying to never visit a cafe, just keep in mind one coffee a day creates 365 cups in landfill, per year. We all love a great cafe coffee, but trying to reduce those takeaways add up over time.

3. Plant-based milk should be used.

The dairy industry is well-known for having a substantial carbon footprint. Dairy cows are known to contribute to climate change since they create methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide that contribute to global warming. It’s a simple step to use alternative milk in your coffee like almond, oat or soy in place of dairy products.

One major setback with this is your choice of alternative milk can affect the taste of your coffee. Trial a few to find what suits your palate best, but soy and oat are two of the most common option.

4. You may buy coffee beans from your local area.

For those who want to brew their coffee, it’s good to buy beans from a sustainable local roaster, if possible. As a result, brewing your usual will no longer need any shipping across the globe, making it a more ecologically responsible choice.

A reduced “foodprint” is achieved by eating locally produced food, which reduces both the distance food must travel and the emissions emitted as a result of transportation.

This isn’t always going to be achievable, depending on where in the world you live. The point is to reduce the physical distance your coffee needs to travel from farm to cup.

5. Pods and capsules aren’t necessary.

Despite their convenience, the pod and capsule systems aren’t produced with the environment in mind. This is due to the majority of pods not being able to be compostable or recyclable. Even if the packaging says they are able to be recycled, depending on the number within the recyclable symbol, it often requires specific facilities most cities don’t possess, let alone smaller towns.

Convenience is often at the detriment to other areas of life, and the environment takes the hit here. Given that Canadians alone use over 2 million pods every single day, the number of single-use coffee products considerably adds to landfills around the globe.

6. Instead of shopping at big companies, support your local little businesses and boutiques

Barista behind a counter - Small Coffee Shops are more eco friendly

Coffee beans should be purchased from sellers recognized for their ethical practices. This ties back to choosing the brands that hold the certifications that matter the most to you.

It’s very difficult to find a single brand that ticks all the boxes of perfectly sustainable coffee, but smaller companies tend to have more transparent information on sustainability, such as how their coffee is sourced and farming techniques that affect the environment.

7. Repurpose Used Coffee Grounds

If you’re a gardener, don’t trash those spent coffee grounds! They can be composted or incorporated straight-up into the garden, where they impart all sorts of benefits: they add nitrogen to soil or compost, act as a barrier to keep garden pests away from your plant, and are great food for a worm bin. 

Don’t have your own garden? Donate your used coffee grounds to a green-fingered neighbor or local Community Garden group.

Keep in mind that not every plant loves coffee being added to the soil. This is because even spent coffee lowers the ph levels of dirt and turns it more acidic. 

For example, blueberries, strawberries, carrots and rose bushes don’t mind acidic soil but tomatoes, rosemary and lavender dislike your coffee leftovers.

8. Heating more water than is needed is not necessary.

All of the hand brewing techniques mentioned need the use of either gas or electricity to heat the water to the desired temperature. The amount of water you use while making a batch of coffee or tea is critical to conserving as much energy as possible. 

This means that boiling 2 liters of water requires much more energy than a single liter of water. Avoiding boiling more than needed adds up to a potential energy saving over time.

In fact, because boiling water isn’t always necessary, making coffee using cold water is even better for the environment than the more conventional techniques. 

A simple approach for making this cold brew is to put your coffee grinds and filtered water in a large mason jar or pitcher and let it sit overnight. The following morning, all that’s left to do is pass the grinds through some cheesecloth. Only the coffee grounds remained, which might be utilized for various purposes.

Since there is no water being heated at all for cold brew, it’s seen as the most sustainable way to make coffee, though it is a bit of an acquired taste.

9. Reusable filters, or filters that have not been bleached, are preferable.

Waste is generated even when brewing by hand, in the form of paper filters that are only used once. While it’s comforting to know that some paper filters decompose, keep in mind that not everyone has access to a composting facility. 

Paper filters typically come in bleached filters (white) and unbleached (brown). If you’re looking to compost these filters, stay clear of the bleached version, as this will leach chemicals into the soil.

Another way to reduce paper waste is to find a filter that can be reused, such as hemp or gold filters.

Coffee bags are sold in bulk, which is one of the most prominent causes of this. To reuse the many recyclable materials, sorting them out might be a challenge. It’s possible that reusing these bags instead of tossing them away is a viable solution. 

Coffee bags can be used as planters, lunchboxes, and even an upcycled tote bag by some imaginative folks. This demonstrates the versatility of coffee bags.

10. Don’t get overwhelmed 

Finally, don’t get overwhelmed. There are so many options to be more sustainable that it’s easy to become confused and end up doing nothing to improve your sustainable footprint when it comes to coffee.

Start small, take little steps. Implement one change at a time and you’ll do much more in a year than trying to do it all and reverting back to old habits.

Conclusion

Getting your daily dosage of coffee without sacrificing your commitment to environmental and workers’ rights concerns is possible. Making your own coffee at home, seek out more sustainable options, or composting/reusing/recycling are all great ways to reduce your impact on the coffee industry.

Don’t forget to show your support for companies dedicated to the creation of long-lasting products. 

Finally, it’s worth mentioning how small actions can have a profound effect on the long-term industry. If we all implement just one of these factors, we can cause dramatic change. 

These large companies would be forced to get their act together and produce products that help the environment and the local communities, rather than hurt them.

Bio

Eco-friendly Coffee is an educational resource that informs users about sustainable coffee. Our goal is to make buying coffee that is truly eco friendly as simple, efficient, and cost-effective as possible.

Our content focuses on providing actionable steps a coffee lover can take to reduce their environmental footprint and prevent social and ethical issues through the production of coffee.