Two out of every three Canadians are coffee drinkers, and consume an average of 2.8 cups of coffee per day (http://www.coffeeassoc.com/coffeeincanada.htm). Unfortunately, enjoying a cup of coffee is not as innocent as it sounds.
What’s the issue?
Coffee is one of the world’s hottest commodities (pardon the pun!), and it needs very specific conditions for ideal growth. For this reason, most coffee beans are grown at high altitudes in tropical areas like South and Central America. This means that coffee is transported several thousand kilometres, consuming massive amounts of energy, and emitting tonnes of greenhouse gases just to get to Canada.
Coffee beans also grow better in lots of sun, so deforestation is used to clear fields and to eliminate shade (called ‘sun coffee’). In turn, this impacts species that rely on the forest to survive. Fewer trees also means less vegetation to absorb and filter stormwater, resulting in toxic runoff from heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers.
How can we change?
Overall, the farming techniques used to produce coffee beans have a huge environmental impact on highly sensitive areas. To combat the negative effects of growing ‘sun coffee’, ‘shade-grown coffee’ is produced by growing coffee plants underneath trees as it would occur naturally. Shade-grown coffee prevents habitat destruction and species loss.
Furthermore, organic coffee ensures that unnatural pesticides and herbicides are not used to produce coffee. These chemicals are harmful to species diversity and human health, so organic coffee is a preferable alternative.
Although it is more expensive, shade-grown organic coffee is a much better choice for the environment. It is available in several brands including ‘ethical bean coffee’ which is also fair-trade certified. Check out http://www.ethicalbean.com/ and click on the ‘buy’ link to find retailers in London!
More tips to an environmentally conscious brew.
- Don’t make more than you need: We all know that the coffee cup indicator on the side of the pot is a lie, but that doesn’t mean we need to brew 12 ‘cups’ of coffee to prove a point. From personal experience I have found that two ‘cups’ of coffee on the pot is actually more like one mug, so I normally fill the water to the three cup line to get my fill.
- Use a reusable filter: By using a metal mesh filter instead of a paper filter, you can reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill – unless, of course, you compost your filter and grinds.
- Compost your coffee grinds! : Unfortunately, the City of London doesn’t currently provide a curbside green bin collection program, but here is a blog on how to create your own indoor composter. Coffee grinds can be composted to recover nutrients, and to reduce waste to landfill.
- Turn off your coffee maker, or use botem:
- Use a travel mug: On campus, disposable coffee cups make up 15% of the garbage that goes to landfill.