Upgrading the College Diet: Coffee

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According to the 2008 National Coffee Drinking Trends Summary, young adults (age 18-24) who drink coffee consume an average of 3.2 cups a day. I completely represent this statistic. I often drink multiple cups of coffee in the morning to get me going, and sometimes require a booster cup in the afternoon to keep up my momentum. Most of the college students and young professionals that I know have a similar routine. For most us, coffee is not a want, but a need: it makes us more alert, and it helps to be more focused and productive when we study or tackle a project.

I’ve tried to reduce my daily coffee intake, and even quit, because coffee stains my teeth an lingers on my breath far longer than I’d like it to. However, I always wave the white flag after 48 hours and, with twitching hands, exhume my coffee pot from the depths of my pantry so that I can get my caffeine fix. Addiction is rough.

Since I don’t have it in me to drink less, I always make an effort to drink smart. For me, this means thinking green every time I buy, carry, or discard my cup o’ joe. Environmentally sustainable coffee has positive impact on all levels of industry: relevant farming practices clear less land and increase the amount of viable animal habitats; the omission of pesticides and other chemicals used to grow coffee crops helps improve the health of watersheds, animals, and workers; fair-trading practices ensure that farmers are paid a fair price for their coffee beans, which means that they need less land to sustain their livelihoods and can leave more natural habitats untouched.

“Green,” “organic,” and “fair trade” are buzz words that are often associated with tree huggers and hippies. For this reason, you might think that the only place to find a mug of eco-friendly java is at the tiny, independently-run college café in your town. Not true. While I advocate in supporting local business, I also think it should be known that many green coffee chains exists at the state, national and international level. This includes the biggest and baddest of them all, Starbucks. Starbucks, the largest coffeehouse company in the world, is also major proponent of corporate social and environmental responsibility. Following Starbucks Shared Planet ethical sourcing principals, the company bought 295 million pounds of responsibly grown and ethical traded coffee in 2008. They hope to increase that figure, which was 75% of their total annual coffee purchases, to 100% by 2015. Beyond their beans, Starbucks is striving to have 100% of their single-use cups made of recyclable materials by 2012, and some participating Starbucks locations currently reward patrons who bring in reusable tumblers with a $0.10 discount off of their beverages. The company also boasts a hodgepodge of other eco-friendly accomplishments, from the initiation of their Farmer Support Centers to the construction of a “green” Seattle store that incorporates environmentally smart design features.

If coffee shops aren’t your thing (or, if frequenting them falls outside of your budget) don’t fret—you can still be an environmental steward while brewing at home. Planet Green offers some great recommendations for how you can “green up” your home coffee regimen (For example, did you know that used coffee grounds can be used as compost material? I didn’t). The site also provides links to some other great resources pertaining to green coffee and tea.

Happy brewing!

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6 thoughts on “Upgrading the College Diet: Coffee”

  1. Just to be clear, “Fair Trade” is an economic program, not an environmental one. It is no more environmental, or “green”, than offering microloans to the rural poor in India.

    By treating the two issues interchangeably — global poverty and the environment — you essentially dilute the value of either.

  2. Greg, thank you for your feedback.

    You are correct when you say that “fair trade” and “green” are not interchangeable terms. It was not my goal to suggest otherwise.

    I am aware that, unlike the bird-friendly and organic farming practices, fair trading practices do not have a direct impact on the environment. However, fair trading practices do have an INDIRECT impact on the environment; as mentioned in the third paragraph, when farmers are paid a fair price for their coffee beans, they need less land to sustain their livelihoods and can leave more natural habitats untouched.

    In my opinion, fair trade is not a green practice, but it is a significant component of a green issue.

  3. That’s funny you mentioning the coffee grounds for compost thing. I remember reading an article somewhere mentioning that. I had also read that coffee grounds combined with orange peel or something like that can be used in your garden or flower bed as a deterrent to keep cats from using it as a “restroom” ;) . And as far as college students drinking a lot of coffee, it beats drinking high calorie sodas so long as it isnt the 500+ calorie laden frappucinos, caramel mochas and God know what other concoctions . Sorry for the long comment. Fun topic and post.

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