As a whole, it’s estimated that Americans drink 300 to 350 million cups of coffee every day. When anything is consumed in that quantity, there’s an environmental impact. If you consume one or more of those millions of cups of coffee each day, what can you do to reduce the environmental impact of your coffee habit? Fortunately, small, easy steps are all it takes.
Coffee at Home
If you brew your own coffee at home, you’re already on the path to environmentally friendly coffee because you most likely use a coffee mug instead of disposable cups. You can get greener, though.
• Use a reusable coffee filter or non-bleached disposable filters. Reusable filters will keep 365 disposable filters out of your trash can each year. If you do go with disposable filters, use the brown unbleached ones. The bleaching process to make filters white is unnecessary and not environmentally friendly.
• Buy organic or Fair Trade coffee. Both organic practices and Fair Trade practices are friendlier on the earth. If you can find a coffee that is both organic and Fair Trade, you’ll be doing both the earth and the workers on the coffee plantations good.
• Compost your coffee grounds – Coffee grounds help to make compost rich in nitrogen, and the moisture in the wet grounds helps move the compost along. You can also use coffee grounds as a direct fertilizer around plants that like acid.
Coffee to Go
When you’re on the go, there are several ways that you can be more environmentally friendly with the coffee you buy at the coffee shop.
• Invest in a good, spill proof reusable coffee mug. One of the largest environmental impacts of our coffee-on-the-go culture is the waste that the disposable coffee cups create. Starbucks offers a 10-cent discount to those that bring their own mug, and many other coffee chains and independent coffee houses do, too.
• Choose the organic or Fair Trade option at the coffee house. Many coffee houses offer at least one eco-friendlier option each day. If your favorite coffee house doesn’t, ask them to add one to their daily offerings.
• Share your stir stick. Unless you’ve stuck your stir stick in your mouth, it’s completely fine for the person next to you to use it, too. Offer it to the person next to you, even if you don’t know him. You may get a funny look, but chances are you’ll also get a “yes.” If everyone did this, the number of plastic stir sticks that end up in the trash could be cut in half.
None of these suggestions will impact the level of enjoyment you get from drinking coffee, but they can have a positive impact on the earth.
Image: Robert S. Donovan
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