Let’s be honest – coffee is absolutely delicious. I love coffee in almost fashion – from soy lattes, to ultra-hipster cold brew, or even just a plain and simple drip. Coffee and I’s relationship ebbs and flows (mostly flows) depending on my work load and/or the number of consecutive grey, rainy days here in Seattle. We are known for our coffee for a reason, after all – and it’s damn good I might add!
As someone who loves learning about sustainable food systems, I couldn’t help to wonder – where does our $3.50 go each time we purchase a craft beverage from our local barista? What is the environmental impact?
3 simple ways you can be more mindful when consuming your beloved cup of coffee:
- Ditch the cup!
America alone drinks 400 million cups of coffee each day, many of which are from takeaway cafes. If we can simply bring out own cups, or make coffee at home – we can save a ton of plastic and trees.
- Consider the water footprint of coffee
It takes ~50 gallons of water to make a latte (including the cup, sleeve, lid and milk). To put this in perspective – a standard bathtub filled to the brim is only 24 gallons (more on that here) That’s adds up quite a quickly considering that America is the largest consumer of coffee per capita in the world. I know I personally can consumer 2-4 cups a day without batting an eye – even when I don’t actually need that much.
- Buy Rainforest Alliance Certified or Fair Trade
Growing coffee requires a great deal of land, and not all coffee is grown sustainably. Many farms buzz down rainforest to create room for these caffeine-packed bushes. This destroys the long term integrity of the land.
Luckily there’s a simple solution to help with this. Look for coffee that is Shade Grown or bears the Rainforest Alliance Certified symbol (see below). This means the coffee is grown in matrimony with the natural environment, which helps maintain the land’s biodiversity. Albeit not 100% perfect, it’s a great start – and it’s easy.
So we can continue to love coffee (trust me, I do), but we should also be consiencious about how much we consume (water), how it’s grown (environment), and who grew it (fair labor practices). Since we can’t go to our local farmers market and meet the coffee grower first hand (unless you live in Central
America, perhaps), we can check for the two verification symbols – rainforest alliance certified and
fair trade. If you purchase coffee at your local shop, ask your barista (preferably the one with the mustache) about where they source their beans. If they aren’t sure, have them find out.
Start the conversation – this is how change is made. These small details may seem insignificant, but they can make a world of a difference for both farmers and our the health of our lovely planet.