One of my favorite morning rituals is brewing a fresh pot of coffee while I get ready for the day. Even before taking that first sip, I feel awakened by the aroma that fills our space as the boiling water seeps through the coffee grounds and slowly drips into the glass carafe. Recently, I've started thinking more deeply about what goes into my morning cup of coffee and the impact it has on people and the planet.
As one of the world's most traded commodities, coffee production has had a detrimental impact on the environment in recent years. Due to overwhelming increases in demand, "sun cultivated" coffee, which mass produces coffee beans at a faster, cheaper rate, has become the new norm. Unfortunately, there are consequences to this more for less approach.
"Sun cultivated" coffee requires – you guessed it – sunlight. This requires the clearing of forestry, which destroys natural habitats and displaces local wildlife. Additionally, the constant exposure to the sun weakens the immune system of the coffee crops, making them more susceptible to pests and insects. To prevent infestation, toxic pesticides are sprayed on the crops, threatening the land, farmers who harvest the coffee, wildlife, and even consumers. The good news: There are healthier, more sustainable options.
WHAT TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING COFFEE
IS IT ORGANIC?
Organic, non-treated coffee beans are healthier for you as a consumer and for the people who grow them. Cheap, conventional coffee is one of the most chemically treated crops in the world. By buying organic, you can avoid ingesting residue from these toxic chemicals, not to mention the coffee tastes infinitely better.
IS IT FAIR TRADE?
When you purchase Fair Trade coffee, you're supporting companies that promote safe, healthy working conditions for coffee farmers, protect the environment, enable transparency, and empower communities to build strong, thriving businesses. While there has been mixed debate about the impact and effectiveness of Fair Trade coffee, it's at least a step in the right direction. Contact your coffee roaster to learn more about their production processes so you can be sure they treat their workers and the environment with ethics and sustainability in mind.
IS IT SHADE GROWN?
"Shade grown" coffee beans are naturally grown under a shaded canopy of diverse, native trees. This eco-friendly method preserves biodiversity and local wildlife, doesn't require chemical fertilizers or pesticides, and allows coffee beans to mature at a slower pace, which helps creates a richer, more robust flavor.
4 WAYS TO REDUCE THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF COFFEE
BREW AT HOME
Home-brewed coffee is a simple way to save money and reduce your carbon footprint. The difference may seem minute at first, but if you consider how many cups of coffee are consumed each day, every cup matters. If you want to take it a step further, opt for a non-plastic coffee maker like a Chemex. We switched from a Keurig to a Chemex a couple years ago and the difference in taste is astonishing. It's safe to say we never went back to machine-made coffee at home.
Buying local is an excellent way to help the environment while supporting your local community. I used to just pick up a bag of coffee from the grocery store because it was "convenient and cheap." Over the last year or so, however, I started buying my coffee from a local roaster that sources fairly traded beans direct from farms with missions of sustainability and ethical practices, and roasts them right here in Syracuse.
BRING A REUSABLE CUP
When you do need to get out of the house for a coffee break, make sure your reusable cup comes with you. This will save you from tossing out the cup, lid, straw, and cozy after you've finished drinking your coffee. Some larger coffee shops like Starbucks even offer you a discount when you bring your own cup. I call that a win, win!
You'd be surprised by the number of ways you can reuse coffee grounds. From fertilizing plants to removing household odors to making your own beauty products, coffee grounds can do more than just help you wake up in the morning. I'm excited to try making homemade coffee scrub out of old coffee grounds that I've been collecting over the last week or so, and if all goes well, I'll be sharing the recipe so you can make it, too!