With protests on climate change becoming an ever-present activity across the world and Greta Thunberg’s credentials rising, it’s only natural that many of us want to make more eco-friendly coffee and start to look back at our own environmental footprint.
So far in our lives, we’ve all been guilty of insensitive ecology mishaps, from putting an item in the wrong bin to opting to drive somewhere we could have walked to in 15 minutes.
Because when you’re just one minuscule mite on a planet of billions, it’s easy to think these sorts of actions have minuscule mite-like consequences.
But it’s this shared mentality by billions around the world that has resulted in a mass environmental unconsciousness, which has in turn greatly harmed our planet.
Attitudes need to change and even more importantly, so do our actions.
In order to end our exacerbating environmental crisis, many of us have been inspired to become less wasteful and more energy-efficient people in the last year, making minor adjustments to so many aspects of our lives to try and make an impact.
But while lots of you might have taken up cycling to work or invested in a fancy electric car, how many of you have even considered doing something as small as changing the way you drink coffee?
Let us explain.
Due to our unstoppable love of java, the coffee industry is actually by far one of the most harmful for our planet, and one of the main contributors to issues of waste and improper recycling worldwide.
Therefore, by making a small change to your coffee so it’s a little more eco-friendly, you can actually have a lasting and tremendous effect on our world’s waste issue!
To learn more about how your current coffee habit may be negatively impacting the planet and how you can remedy this, we’ve put together this coffee guide for the eco-warrior – helping all caffeine cravers get a caffeine fix, that helps fix the world.
Key Ways To Make A More Eco Friendly Coffee
Stop Using Pods
Ah, the coffee pod.
The quickest and easiest way to serve yourself up a great tasting coffee and quite possibly the most popular form of java on the planet right now.
In the UK, almost a third of the population now own a pod-popping machine, and in the US, it’s 40% of all households.
But if you’re even the slightest bit conscious about how eco-friendly your actions are, you’ll need to shift your own machine pronto.
We’ve known for a few years now that coffee pods are becoming one of the world’s great evils, but now that so many people have bought into their simplistic function and style, we’re reluctant to go back to other methods of coffee brewing.
And it’s hurting our planet.
It’s estimated that of the 39,000 coffee pods produced every minute – 29,000 will end up in a landfill, where they take anywhere between 150 and 500 years to break down.
When you consider the UK alone threw away close to 260 million pods all the way back in 2015, it’s not difficult to predict we’re heading for catastrophe, as pods have only increased in popularity in the last five years.
In our opinion, it’s amazing that the popularity of pods has continued to grow as not only are they the absolutely worst choice of brew when it comes to looking after mother earth, but they also make pretty sub-par coffee.
By ditching pods and getting back to basics, you’ll save a lot of money and be able to experience a far more full-bodied and high-quality coffee drink
Filter Out Paper Waste
If you’re more of a coffee filter aficionado, I’m afraid you’re not going to get off that easy either!
While there’s no nasty pods being wasted, most paper filters aren’t recyclable and even worse, a lot of them contain detrimental material to our eco system.
Standard paper coffee filters are often bleached with harmful chemicals like chlorine, which becomes a real problem when the paper starts to decompose in landfill.
As they dissipate, they leak hazardous toxins into our watersheds, harming our environment by spreading them to growing plants.
So.. not good.
If filter is still the best option for you, try and ensure you are at least on the lookout for brown filters that are free from chlorine (TCF or PCF) to try and lessen your impact as much as possible.
You could even start using metal or reusable filters to help solve the issue of waste, and they usually make for a more satisfying flavour anyway!
The best option of course though, like with pods, is to ditch filter coffee machines and opt for something which eliminates paper waste entirely!
Make More Coffee At Home! (Or Find An Eco-Friendly Cafe)
In recent years, coffee shop chains have vastly expanded across the UK, forging unavoidable empires which most of us are now devotees and followers of.
Don’t get us wrong, there’s nothing wrong with visiting coffee shops, as they’re a great way to meet up with friends, try out new recipes and for a lot of people a safe-haven for work and study.
If you’re not much of a dab hand in the kitchen, the coffee on offer is also probably lightyears ahead of what you can manage to rustle up, meaning it’s the only way for you to get a truly tasty caffeine fix.
But if you’re really serious about improving your eco-friendly activities, you should definitely consider cutting back or at least seeking out an eco-friendly cafe you can trust.
Because unless your coffee shop explicitly advertises eco-friendly facts, there’s no way of knowing how sustainable or fair trade their product is, or whether all the water and electricity required to run the store is sourced from sustainable sources.
Too many coffee chains also serve their product in paper disposable cups with plastic lids which are incredibly difficult to recycle and when you consider how many of these are sold each day – its an exacerbating issue for landfills.
Some shops offer their own recycling bins which promise that the cups will be taken to specialist recycling plants, but when you’re holding a takeaway cup, your very purpose is to leave the premises before you’ve even had a sip!
It’s more than likely that these cups will just end up in a bin or be taken to a non-specialist recycling plant.
A standard Starbucks cup takes 20 years to decompose naturally and while that might not seem like a long time, it’s pretty frightening to imagine when you consider the US alone produces 60 billion of those cups a year.
Making more coffees at home means less paper waste, less CO2 emissions from your car journey and… you save money!
Use Your Own Mug
Admittedly, avoiding coffee shops is a tough one and we’re not expecting you to shun all of society and boycott Starbucks for the rest of your life, as you’ll probably end up with few friends.
But we would advise that if you are going to these coffee shops, that you come prepared.
As previously mentioned, the biggest crime of most coffee chains is that they use disposable cups which are ridiculously difficult to recycle.
So to help reduce your own landfill footprint, try bringing in your own mug or receptacle for your drink to be served in.
Many chains actually provide discounts or special offers for customers who do this, so you’ll likely be saving money as well as playing a small part in the reduction of paper waste!
It’s the easiest, eco-friendly way to continue enjoying the services of high-street coffee shops without it being an almighty strain on the conscience.
(Although if you will be visiting one of the UK’s 20 most popular train stations on your commute, you can now recycle your single-use cup in a dedicated big orange bin.)
Rage Against The Machine
The annoying thing about brewing coffee is that there is almost always a byproduct which needs dealing with.
Most of the world understandably fails to deal with these byproducts correctly, opting to just throw them away as waste, saving themselves time but in effect speeding up the biological clock of our poor earth.
The main culprit is the aforementioned paper filter, but did you know waste coffee grounds have just as bad if not a worse effect on our environment when sent to landfill!
Therefore it can be wise to weigh up your options and choose a machine which creates the least by products.
Pod machines leave plastic and waste grounds.
Drip makers, pour overs and Aeropresses use paper filters and waste grounds.
However, there are options out there that only waste coffee grounds, giving you a more manageable load to dispose of in an environmentally friendly way.
The French Press is the king of these eco-friendly coffee brewing methods as it requires no filter.
Just make sure you remember to recycle your grounds…
Recycle Your Coffee Grounds
Most people are unaware of just how bad it is to throw your coffee grounds into the trash, as they can have particularly nasty effects on our environment when they end up in landfill.
When left to decompose, coffee grounds emit greenhouse gases such as methane, which have terrible consequences towards climate change.
Frighteningly, methane is 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide when measured over a period of 100 years, making waste coffee grounds an issue which needs solving just as badly as our incessant CO2 vehicle emissions!
Therefore to make your coffee eco-friendly, you need to start recycling your waste coffee grounds.
The easiest way to do this is by utilizing them in your garden, where they can have several beneficial effects.
They are a fantastic green compost material containing plenty of nitrogen and nutrients to help keep your heap healthy and they’re also a great fertilizer for soil due to their organic material which improves drainage, water retention and aeration.
And if you’re not much of a gardener, why not do something a little more left-field with them like make them into a body scrub, paint with them or use them in cooking?!
There are so many ways to use coffee grounds that recycling them should be no fuss and plenty of fun
Choose Your Beans Wisely
Of course, if you truly want to support eco-friendly products, you need to start being a little more selective with your beans to ensure you are not financially contributing to environmentally unsound practices!
Our advice would be to avoid more obvious, corporate coffee brands, especially if they feature absolutely no information on how the coffee was farmed or cultivated.
Instead, go for organic or fair trade options you feel you can trust.
Non-organic coffee is often grown using chemicals and fertilizers which although not harmful to the drinker, are not great for the natural environment they’re being grown in.
Such toxins aren’t too sensitive to ecosystems and are most often harmful to the birds that live in them, with the factories that create such toxins also spilling them into the environment.
It, therefore, pays to go organic and stop funding such harmful ways of growing coffee.
Fairtrade coffee companies are also a great option for eco-warriors because as well as ensuring fair prices for struggling coffee farmers they also survey the environmental standards of a farm in their certification process.
This means you can rest safe in the knowledge that these beans have been cultivated without issue and that the workers who grew them have received a fair deal!