Did you know that coffee beans are one of the most heavily sprayed crops? That means you’re getting a dose of pesticides with every cup. And by using a Kuerig or other coffee machine that’s made from majority plastic, you’re not only getting those chemicals in your coffee but also microplastics. Much like how traditional tea bags release microplastics when in hot water, so does your coffee machine. Not to mention bacteria left behind in the machine, even if you clean it.
Coffee has a lot of problems when it comes to sustainability. Not only is the crop being sprayed a problem for your health but also the health of the planet as those chemicals get washed away and into the soil where it impacts the biodiversity of the soil.
Coffee is also the second most tradable commodity coming in right after oil. This means that the money which it sells for goes into the pocket of the sellers and not the farmers and those who actually grow the beans. Big coffee names such as Starbucks and Costa have a huge claim on the coffee industry and therefore a lot of control over how the coffee is sourced and how those who source it and grow it are paid. This is where we can run into similar issues that we see in fast fashion. When there is a high demand for a product, those along the chain are underpaid and overworked in order to get that product out as soon as possible.
The human burden of coffee:
Almost all coffee farmers are paid only 10% of the retail price of coffee. There is also no safety net or price guarantee for coffee farmers with the ever-growing competition, if supply drops or if weather affects the crops. Most workers aren’t treated fairly at all and are overworked all for a mere fraction of the price that coffee is sold for.
The environmental burden of coffee:
I already mentioned the run-off of chemicals impacts the biodiversity of the soil but there are other environmental impacts of coffee as well. WWF says that with the increase in demand for coffee, micro-cropping and sun cultivation are quickly becoming the new norm. More than 2.5 million acres of trees have been cleared in central America to make way for coffee farms. Deforestation is only growing in all major coffee-growing countries.
Then, of course, there is all the waste that making coffee with disposable filters, and K-cups produce which by the way, won’t break down and also affect the taste of your coffee.
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Simple and sustainable coffee:
Drinking chemical-laced, and un-fair coffee tastes bad. Metaphorically and literally. But if this is the only coffee we’ve ever known, we wouldn’t know that it’s not a good cup of coffee. When I switched up my beans and coffee-making method, my eyes were opened wide up.
1. Ditch the machines
You don’t need a Kuerig or a regular coffee maker to make amazing coffee. In fact, I’d dare say that your coffee will taste better without the use of a machine. Of course, if you have a coffee maker I’m not asking you to throw it out. IF you have a coffee pot, consider using reusable filters, or for a Kuerig, use some reusable K-cups. When the machine inevitably breaks down, consider switching to one of the options below.
A) French press
When I first switched to a more simple and sustainable coffee routine, I used a french press. And I still use it most of the time. It doesn’t take that much longer than traditionally brewing a pot and depending on how big it is, you can make multiple cups.
All you do is add about 3 tablespoons of course ground coffee per cup you want to make to your french press. Cover with boiling water and place the lid on top without pressing down the plunger. After about 3 minutes you can express the plunger and pour yourself a delicious brew! This method eliminates the need for excess packaging, plastic and any filters at all!
B) Pour Over
You can you a ceramic cone topper if you’re just making for yourself or a Chemex if you’re making multiple cups. Pair it with a reusable coffee filter and your waste is virtually zero! Add your grounds to the filter, I do about 3 tbsp per cup, just like the french press method. Then pour just enough boiling water over the grounds to get them wet. Wait about 30 seconds to allow the grounds to “bloom” and then finish the pour and let the coffee drip into the cup or chemex until it’s done!
2. Consumer better beans
One of the main problems when it comes to coffee as we talked about is the number of chemicals used, deforestation, and human treatment. You can help solve all of these problems by simply buying better beans. Organic and fair/direct trade.
Organic just means that they’re grown without the use of chemicals and pesticides, fair trade means that everyone along the supply chain was paid fairly from farmer to seller, and direct trade is when coffee suppliers purchase beans directly from the farmers who grew them.
This means better quality coffee for you, and better wages for those who are doing all the work.
These are some of my favourite brands:
- Ethical bean coffee
- Stumptown coffee roasters
- Balzac’s coffee roasters
- Bean Head specialty coffee
- Hitch and Boler (this brand is roasted right in my home town and a personal favourite!)
3. Bring your own cup
When grabbing a coffee on the go, be prepared and bring your own coffee mug to reduce waste! It’s estimated that 16 billion coffee cups are thrown away each year and since they’re lined with plastic (Which again, will leech into your coffee) they’re unrecyclable. My favourite reusable coffee cups are the KeepCup and my trusty Hydroflask.
Consuming better beans and supporting those who support farmers and coffee farm workers along with taking a slower approach to coffee makes all the difference in the long-term sustainability of the coffee industry.
4. Support small coffee shops
Coffee giants like Starbucks and costa don’t have sustainable coffee practices. Do some research and find some smaller coffee shops in your area to support. A lot of smaller shops use fair trade beans and have more sustainable coffee practices. I’m not saying you’ll be perfect, I do get the occasional Starbucks from time to time. But an overall conscious effort and supporting smaler shops the majority of the time really adds up and makes a huge difference.
All it takes is a few conscious decisions and you can have a tastier, sustainable coffee routine.
Thank you for reading this post! I hope you can take these tips and apply them to your own coffee rituals to make them healthier and more sustainable! Please don’t forget to share this post and follow me on Instagram for daily slow and sustainable inspiration!
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