Easy Ways to Make Your Coffee Habit More Sustainable
Millions of cups of coffee are drunk in America everyday, and many of us are big fans of a caffeine hit. But just how sustainable is your habit? As more of us begin to make lifestyle changes to reduce the waste we produce and our impact on the environment, what changes can be made to your coffee habit to make it better?
Pay attention to packaging
Excess packaging is a major problem for our environment. Most coffee is packed in packets made of foil, plastic and paper. While foil is great for preserving the shelf-life of your coffee, it’s so great for the world. These traditional coffee bags are manufactured in a way that boosts the environmental footprint of the product. The multi-layer bags are also very difficult to recycle.
When you’re searching the coffee aisle at the supermarket for your next caffeine hit, pay attention to what the packet is made of. Multiple materials are usually a bad sign. Stay away from foil. Instead, look for packets made from one material, such as recyclable plastics. And make sure you actually do recycle them afterwards.
If you order your coffee online, look for companies who use minimal packaging to ship out their orders. Aim for coffee that arrives in cardboard boxes without plastic packing round it. When you’ve unpacked your order, either recycle the box or find it a new life in your home. Can it be used for storage in the garage? Could your kids make use of it for their next craft project? Maximizing the use of any packaging will help reduce its footprint on the environment.
Ditch the disposable cups
The easiest change you can make to your coffee drinking that can make a big impact on the sustainability is to ditch disposable cups. When you’re on the go, it can be tempting to grab a takeaway coffee, but single use cups made of cardboard and plastic create a lot of unnecessary waste. While some of these cups can be recycled, most of them just find their way into the nearest bin and end up in landfill.
You don’t have to give up a takeout coffee though, just the cups. Invest in a reusable cup to keep in your bag, and ask to have your coffee made in that. There are lots of different reusable coffee cups on the market in different styles. Choose one that suits your lifestyle. If your coffee treat is a drive-through on your way to work, pick a cup that fits neatly in the cup holder of your car. If the cup needs to go in your bag, choose one with a secure lid, or one that folds flat. Many coffee shops even offer a discount if you use own cup, so you can help out the planet and your purse.
If you forget your cup, some coffee shops offer a deposit scheme, where you can borrow a reusable cup for a small fee, which you get back when you return the cup. You might have to switch your usual coffee spot, but you’ll be supporting a business that’s trying to give back. You could also try and cut back on visiting coffee shops at all, and set up a coffee bar at home.
Say goodbye to coffee pods
Coffee pods are very popular for at home coffee machines, but they’re up there with disposable cups for creating masses of waste. Most of these pods can’t be recycled, which is a huge problem. Even the ones that can be recycled, usually can’t go into your regular recycling and instead need to be returned to the manufacturer. This means collecting them in a bag, which can get yucky and is inconvenient. This means that many people don’t bother, and instead the pods end up in landfill.
Pods are convenient and if you’re a coffee fan, the variety available can be attractive. Instead of the pods, why not treat yourself to a coffee subscription gift? Many coffee subscription companies are getting more environmentally conscious, using sustainable packaging. You can try a wider variety of coffees, without contributing to landfill. You’ll also enjoy fresher, better coffee made from proper coffee beans.
Choose the right filter
If you’re making coffee at home with filters, you can reduce your environmental footprint by carefully choosing the right filter. Many paper filters are chlorine-bleached, and when they get thrown away, those chemicals leak out. That’s bad for you and the planet. Check the packet when you buy your filters. You’re looking for a label that says TCF (total chlorine free) or PCF (processed chlorine free).
Better than a disposable filter, you could swap to a more environmentally friendly method of brewing your coffee. Go traditional and try out a french press, an aero-press or a steel pour over cone. Many coffee drinkers find that the metal gives their coffee more flavour and a better mouth-feel too, so you could find you enjoy your coffee even more with this simple switch. You might also find you enjoy the ritual of making coffee like this more than just pouring water over a filter. Relax and take a few minutes to yourself to make a coffee that you can feel good about drinking.
Choose the right supplier
Of course, the easiest way to reduce the impact of your coffee is to buy it from the right people.Choose a supplier or manufacturer with values that line up with your own. Do some research into brands you like the look of and see what their environmental policy is.
Recyclable packaging is obviously a good sign, but there are other signs to look for. Check packaging for coffee that is Rainforest Alliance Certified or Rainforest and Bird Friendly Certified. Coffee that is ‘shade-grown’ or ‘bird friendly’. Don’t buy from companies that use packaging you can’t recycle, or that don’t pay their farmers a living wage. Voting with your dollar tells those companies that sustainability is something customers want and should encourage them to improve their own practices.