Labels like “ethical,” “ethically sourced”, and other buzz words on coffee bags are often misleading. The lack of transparency of these labels results in you buying coffee thinking it’s sustainable when it actually isn’t.
Here at Bean and Bean Coffee, we proudly source our coffee from small female-run and led farms that prioritize sustainability. We’re going to suggest ways you can be more sustainable in your coffee drinking habits, because the reality is, sustainability is more than just kicking Keurig pods and plastic cups.
Ways to Drink Coffee More Sustainably
Sustainability is often discussed at a personal/micro level, from reducing plastic straw usage to plastic cups, which are a great step towards a more sustainable future. However, there are other, deeper ways you can drink coffee more sustainably, starting with these factors:
We suggest switching to a reusable and long-lasting method of brewing like a french press, ceramic dripper, etc. Any method that reduces waste is a plus in our book. With that being said, while single-serve cups are bad, they’re not the worst way to consume coffee. Packaging only accounts for a fraction of the environmental footprint coffee has. Think about the energy used to boil water, heat up coffee, the number of fossil fuels used to get coffee to you, the soil and water used to grow coffee, etc. If you make coffee at home and dump the coffee you don’t drink, that’s just as wasteful as using a plastic single-serve cup, arguably more wasteful.
Did you know that there are more sustainable ways to grow coffee? Shade-grown coffee is coffee grown underneath a canopy of taller trees that provide shade from the sun. (Source) Traditionally, coffee is grown in this manner – underneath a natural forest canopy – and it’s more environmentally friendly.
A demand for more crop yield, though, has led to sun-grown coffee, which yields more coffee crop, but it’s damaging to the environment. It leads to a loss in biodiversity and disrupts a previously balanced ecosystem that is now dependent on fertilizers and pesticides.
While third-party certificates provide some accountability, they are not without their faults. Often, you cannot trace the coffee back to the farmer or coffee lot it was grown on. Transparency is a must for sustainability. Ask for more specifics and transparency from where your local coffee shop or roasters buy their coffee from. Programs like direct trade are a more transparent way to source coffee, in which the roaster buys coffee directly from the producer and can tell you where and which farm they bought from. (Source)
Microlot coffee is another term that can lead to more transparency. Microlot coffee is coffee that is sustainably farmed and harvested and traceable to a particular region or lot, where the beans undergo the same climate, soil, altitude, and processing.
Milk, Sugar, and Ice
While coffee add-ons can be unsustainable as well. Milk and sugar are ingredients that have a large environmental footprint. For example, “milk represents 60 to 70 percent of the carbon footprint of a cup of coffee with a few tablespoons of milk; for a latte, it's more like 80 or 90 percent.” (Source)
Ice also has an environmental impact too—a lot of electricity is required to produce ice. The point is not to shame you for adding milk, sugar, or ice, but to be aware of their carbon footprints and not waste them if you choose to add them.
Every Action Counts
Sustainability is a long-term effort that takes a lot of research and being critical about the impact of the things we consume on the environment. True sustainability goes beyond the surface level and is incorporated into our lifestyles. Everyone can strive for a more sustainable lifestyle and we hope that this helps you think deeper about the impact coffee has on the environment.
- Tags: Coffee Sustainability