Millions of us drink coffee everyday, but how often do we stop to think about how our favourite pick-me-up impacts the planet? It’s time to explore the story of our morning latte.
Coffee. That liquid gold that starts the world’s engine every morning, mid-morning, lunchtime, early afternoon and any time in between. Every morning I brew a fresh cup from my espresso machine, and enjoy 20 minutes of pure bliss.
And this ritual is only becoming more popular every year, in cafes, homes and workplaces. Americans lead the world in coffee consumption, with 400 million cups of the stuff brewed daily, while 85% of Canadian adults are coffee drinkers. In Australia alone, we drink 16.3 million cups of the stuff every day! That’s a lot of caffeinated people and a lot of pressure on our environment and coffee farmers around the world.
But don’t despair – you don’t have to go without your daily coffee to do your part for the environment and for workers. All you need to do is to stick to the following guidelines that will help you make a more ethical and sustainable choice for your morning brew.
Consider the four coffee LAWS:
L is for Labour.
An overwhelming majority of the world’s coffee is grown in developing countries in South
America, Africa, and South-East Asia, where the pressures to reduce costs can lead to labour abuse.
Consumers in developed can pay as much as $4-$5 for a cup, while farmers receive as little as 3 cents. When purchasing your coffee, look out for the Fairtrade certification which supports ethical labour practices and ensures that the farmers have received a fair price for their product.
A is for Agricultural practices
Higher demand results in larger coffee plantations that significantly contribute to the deforestation of valuable tropical rainforests, collapsing ecosystems and destroying biodiversity. Mix deforestation with a cocktail of cheap synthetic pesticides and herbicides, and water catchments and soils become polluted as well. Look for coffee that is certified organic and/or Rainforest Alliance certified, which helps ensure the long-term economic health of forest communities by protecting their soils and ecosystems.
W is for Waste
Australia alone sends one billion un-recyclable takeaway coffee cups to rot in landfill every year, each of which requires precious resources to produce. If there is one easy thing you can do right now, it is to choose a reusable coffee cup and use it everyday. Or simply find a spare ten minutes in your day to sit down in your favourite cafe and have your coffee in an old-school ceramic mug that will be washed and reused. Check out responsiblecafes.org to find coffee shops that provide discounts for BYO cups.
If you are a home barista that is thinking about getting a pod machine, stop! Those pods are an environmental disaster. It estimates to take 150 to 500 years for aluminium and plastic capsules to breakdown in landfill. But if you already have a pod machine that you can’t bear to part with just yet, all is not lost – try recycling the pods. In most states of the US Nespresso has a free recycling program with UPS. In Australia, you can purchase a Zero Waste Box from TerraCycle, fill it with your old coffee pods, and send it back to TerraCycle for recycling.
S is for Supply chain
Lastly, consider the distance your coffee travels across the world to get to you. Climate change is one of the the biggest challenges of our time, so by reducing your own carbon footprint by consuming local coffee when possible, you’re not only benefiting the planet, but also local industries. Farmers in Hawaii, Puerto Rico and even California are growing the crop, while Australia has some great coffee growing regions on the northern coast of NSW and tropical north Queensland. So if you can, why not pick up a bag of home-grown beans?
And there you have it – four easy LAWS you can follow in order to become a more conscious coffee consumer. Next time you’re craving a cup, just remember the following:
Labour, Agricultural practices, Waste, Supply chain