Sustainable Coffee: Green Up Your Morning Cup

by Kyle Smith

Sustainable Coffee

We know how to make sustainable food choices, but what about our coffee? Yes, even healthy eco-minded people drink coffee in moderation. The first thing to consider is where your coffee comes from.

According to the Rainforest Alliance, 25 million people depend on coffee crops for their living and coffee farming covers over 30 million acres. That’s a lot of coffee. We know how to make green choices for our home, and our environment but what about our coffee? Yes, even healthy eco-minded people drink coffee in moderation.

Buy Fair Trade for a Sustainable Cup of Coffee

Look for coffee that is stamped Rainforest Alliance Certified or fair trade for the best eco-friendly sustainable bean. This means that the coffee is grown in a sustainable way for the environment and that the farmers get a fair price for their product and labor. Some smaller coffee roasters can’t afford these pricey certifications, but if you can talk directly to the folks that source the coffee, you’ll often find that they’re growing and sourcing practices are just as sustainable.

Most local grocery stores carry fair trade coffees just look for the words on the label. Even big stores like Target, Costco, Safeway and Kroger carry fair trade brands. There are lots of smaller coffee brands that sport a fair trade certification, but if those aren’t available, here are some national brands to check out:

  • Newman’s Own
  • Green Mountain Coffee
  • Global Exchange
  • Fair Trade Coffee Company
  • Caribou Coffee
  • Peace Coffee
  • Dean’s Beans
  • Higher Ground Roasters.

Does your local coffee roaster not source fair trade beans already? Local businesses are often very open to feedback from the community – it’s worth at least asking! Maybe they’ll make a change.

If you buy brewed coffee on the way to work check out McDonalds (ask for Newman’s Own brand), Wawa, Einstein’s Bagels and Dunkin Donuts (ask for fair trade – usually just espresso and lattes). Just make sure you specify that you want fair trade, and be prepared to grab that morning cup elsewhere if they aren’t brewing fair trade at the location near you.

Sustainable Coffee Brewing

If you make your coffee at home try using a Chemex or a French coffee press. Using a coffee press saves water, and electricity, and best of all makes great tasting coffee. All you need is boiling water, the French press or Chemex and coffee.

Coffee presses have been used since 1929, and this method of brewing helps preserve the flavor and oils of the coffee beans as well as reducing acidity from being heated in an electric coffee pot. Coffee presses use a coarser ground coffee but most pre-ground coffees work well. Follow the directions with your press for best results.

A Sustainable Coffee Cup

What about the cup? Using your own cup makes less waste to be sent to the landfill.

Ditch the paper or Styrofoam and purchase reusable steel, ceramic or bpa free plastic coffee mug to take with you. Choose the size cup you usually drink when buying coffee out, and don’t be afraid to use your cup at stores. Most restaurants and stores allow you to use your own cup as long as it matches up with their sizes. In fact, since your reusable cup saves them from having to pay for a cup and sleeve for your coffee, they’ll often pass the savings on to you as a small discount on your drink!

Kyle is a freelance writer most notable for her work with Rubbermaid Recycling and – Simple ways we all can help the environment whether at home, school or at work.

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by jcolivera

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