How To Be A Sustainable Coffee Drinker

By Audrey Kallenberger — / Coffee Talk

Love the Earth—it's the only planet with coffee

Coffee: the nectar that never stops, the sweet elixir of life, the life-giving liquid that we crave night and day, the cream in our... well, coffee. We’re in love. And every long-lasting, monogamous relationship must be created from sustainable practices to endure over time. Being committed to caffeine—bound by beans—is no different. But our highly caffeinated love could be threatened by the stark reality of climate change...  

A field of coffee cherries in Ethiopia ready to be sorted and washed.[Photo Credit: Falcon Coffees]

Consider this, fellow coffee lover: The Climate Institute estimates that without organized efforts to reduce emissions, climate change and rising temperatures are projected to reduce viable global coffee-growing lands by as much as 50% by 2050. Yikes. Yes, you read correctly. The translation? No decent farming land means no decent coffee—and that’s no way to live.  

As of today, coffee drinkers throw away 400 million single-use coffee cups every day—that’s about 50 million cups each year. And of course, by 2050, there will surely be almost double the number of current coffee drinkers. In order to maintain this global level of coffee drinking, and to ensure plenty of coffee will grow and flow deep into Earth’s future, we must drink sustainably now.  

3 Simple Steps to Being a Sustainable Coffee Drinker

How can you help support sustainable coffee farming, aka prevent the demise of coffee-growing lands and communities? How can you drink high-quality coffee—forever? While you most likely cannot grow your own coffee supply in the backyard, you can take a few easy steps to keep your caffeination infatuation—and global coffee growing—going strong.  

A French Press being filled with hot water and brewed to make a mug of Death Wish Coffee.

1. DIY: Brew at Home

Brewing coffee yourself at home, or at your office, allows you to be in total control of the beans—an agent of your own brew-haha, so to speak. For instance, you’ll know where the coffee came from and how it’s being brewed—and both of those factors add up to whether your cup is sustainable or just creating highly caffeinated waste. (Damn, knowledge really IS power.) Plus, DIY brewing is often way cheaper than scoring the goods from your local barista, so you’ll be saving those extra bones for a rainy day. Cha-ching.  

A female sorting coffee beans in Ethiopia.[Photo Credit: Falcon Coffees]

2. Buy Fair Trade and Organic Certified Coffee

Buying beans that are Fair Trade and Organic Certified has a huge impact on global coffee sustainability. Fair Trade certification ensures that the coffee you’re drinking was grown by farmers who receive a fair, livable wage as they work hard to extract coffee cherries in coffee-growing regions around the world, like Ethiopia or Colombia. Fair Trade coffee is grown under fair labor conditions, eliminating child labor, and uses sustainable farming practices, reducing environmental damage to coffee-growing communities. Finally, certification gives farmers access to direct trade and transparency in the global coffee market, so they can compete to get fair prices for their beans and invest funds as they see fit for their families and local communities.

Just as Fair Trade regulation protects coffee farmers, Organic Certification protects the coffee-growing land itself. Organic farming practices keep your coffee free of harmful chemicals, like pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, that can cause cancer and other health concerns.  There are health and flavor benefits to drinking organic coffee: It contains vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that support brain function, focus and energy, and it tastes leaps and bounds better than conventional coffee. (It’s the sweet elixir of life!) Organic coffee prevents deforestation and poverty in coffee-growing lands by promoting sustainable farming practices, and it ensures coffee farmers safety by guaranteeing that they won’t be exposed to chemical-ridden soils. Coffee farms and coffee farmers deserve better.  

A drip coffee maker on a counter next to a bag of Death Wish Coffee and a coffee storage container.

3. Choose Sustainable Brewing Methods

You’re already brewing Fair Trade and Organic Certified coffee at your home or office, so why not choose a brewing method that reduces excess waste? Steer clear of one-use paper and plastic cups or straws, and go for something sustainable. The best ways to brew your beans: Reach for a French press, reusable filters for a Chemex or drip brewer, refillable coffee pods or 100% compostable Death Cups for single-serve coffee makers. If you’re taking that delicious elixir of life on the road, choose a reusable to-go mug, tumbler or even a mason jar with a metal straw to prevent needless waste from paper to-go cups. 

After you’ve enjoyed your brew, be sure to compost your used grounds. Why? We’re glad you asked. Coffee grounds can increase fertile growth in the soil. Research conducted by the University of Hawaii at Manoa observed two parcels of land. The land that had been covered in coffee pulp saw 80% of the land covered in young tree growth in comparison to 20% on the other parcel without the coffee pulp. Let your lawn and garden enjoy the incredible powers of coffee and improve your local ecosystem.  

With these 3 simple steps, your daily (or hourly) coffee ritual can support the betterment and sustainability of coffee-farming communities across the globe. Now, what will that magical coffee bean help us accomplish next? Let’s make a cup of USDA Organic and Fair Trade Certified Death Wish Coffee and find out.  

RELATED: 5 Ways to Reuse Your Coffee Grounds

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