How Can We Reduce the Environmental Impacts of Coffee?

The never-ending love of coffee around the world has led its consumption to increase tenfold.

According to the Environmental Health News, the annual consumption of coffee amounts to over 10 million tons per year. This means that around two billion cups of coffee are consumed daily around the world.

It’s important to note that from the production of each coffee bean to the freshly brewed cup, each step has an impact on the environment.

Quick answer: Consider buying shade-grown coffee, brewing it by the French press, and disposing of your used coffee grounds into the soil to turn them into fertilizers to reduce your overall carbon footprint.

No matter how much we adore our cup of joe in the morning, there’s no denying the fact that coffee does affect our environment adversely. But this doesn’t mean that you’d have to give up on your favorite drink completely.

The environmental harm caused by coffee can be reduced by quite a number of small activities. If you are interested in making drinking coffee eco-friendly, keep reading!

Steps to Reduce Environmental Impact of Drinking Coffee

cup of coffee on white sheet
Can you reduce your carbon footprint when drinking coffee?

Following are the steps we can take to make our coffee drinking habit sustainable:

Buy Shade-Grown Coffee

Shade-grown coffee is considered to be more sustainable and eco-friendly than sun-grown ones. While sun-coffee systems can yield high productivity, shaded farms have better performance in sustainability.

The shade-grown coffee farm can be called a bird paradise as it resembles a natural forest by making use of all types of trees to create a bird-friendly habitat. Other than birds, many other species thrive in it.

The birds in the shade-grown farms also contribute to a better quality of coffee production, as birds eat away pests harming the coffee plants.

On the other hand, sun-grown coffee farms cause deforestation as farmers tend to remove other plants in order to carry on a high-density production of coffee plants.

Keep a Watch Over Your Energy Usage

No doubt we are tempted to use electric coffee makers to save up on time, but switching to a manual brewer can be a possible way to reduce energy consumption.

Heating water in a kettle might consume some of your time but will definitely consume far less energy than using an electric coffee maker.

Switching to cold brew can be another way of cutting down energy usage. Not only will it save energy but it provides a new twist to your favorite hot beverage, too.

Reduce Waste

When there’s high consumption of anything, there tends to be a high waste as well. Now think about the number of coffee cups consumed in a day and the waste it must be producing.

One way of reducing waste is to start using reusable coffee cups instead of disposable cups. Especially when you love buying coffee from cafes.

Also, instead of using a single-use coffee pod while making coffee at home, go for some other reusable or biodegradable options. 

According to research, the technological advancement in the method of brewing coffee has also affected the environment.

The traditional way of brewing the coffee using a drip filter is considered more eco-friendly than the single-serving coffee pods commonly used now.

Make Use of Coffee Grounds

Be smart in disposing of coffee grounds. Instead of just throwing them away, you can actually explore many creative things you can do with them to stay eco-friendly.

The best way to dispose of your coffee grounds is to turn them into compost for your plants. They are packed with essential nutrients and can serve as fertilizers for your acid-loving plants.

It can also be sprinkled around the edges of your garden to keep slugs and snails away from your plants.

Choose Plain Coffee

Reducing milk and dairy from our diet may help in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The production of dairy products contributes to around 3.6 percent of global planet-warming emissions each year.

No matter how much you like drinking your latte and cappuccino, the benefits of ditching dairy in your coffee outshine the taste of milky coffee.

Manure from dairy cows produce harmful gases and cause climate change. Also, if it’s not handled properly, it can degrade water resources. 

Look for Certification Labels While Buying Coffee

In order to make sure that the coffee you buy is grown and harvested in a sustainable way, look for the certification label on your coffee bag. Following are the 6 most commonly used coffee certifications:

  • Fair Trade
  • Bird Friendly
  • Rainforest Alliance
  • Carbon Neutral
  • Organic
  • Direct Trade

Buy Coffee in Bulk

Instead of buying several small bags of coffee every week, it is more environmentally friendly to buy a big bag once.

While many would argue about the freshness element in making coffee, it isn’t too much to ask when the environment is at stake.

If you are interested to know more about how can coffee possibly affect our environment and ways to make it sustainable, watch this video below!

A video about the environmental impact of coffee.

Having discussed the ways we can make coffee sustainable, one element that we usually do not take into account as much as we should is the use of the right coffee filter while making coffee.

While stressing upon the ways to make coffee and its preparing methods sustainable, we shouldn’t forget the fact that coffee filters also have a significant impact on our environment.

Thus, it is very important to consider the types of coffee filters available and how much each contributes to making coffee drinking sustainable.

Let’s find out in detail how coffee filters can impact our environment.

Are Coffee Filters Bad for the Environment?

Coffee with a coffee filter
White coffee filter with ground coffee and water

Coffee filters are bad for the environment, even disposable ones, as they contribute to waste. Even though paper filters are widely available and used worldwide as they are cheap and make cleaning up a breeze, they increase the amount of paper waste significantly.

Apart from creating waste volume, many paper filters are also bleached with chlorine, making them more harmful.

One way of reducing the adverse effect of paper filters is to reuse them in making compost for your plants. Just keep them moist and cut them up into pieces.

Due to the moisture locked in these filters, they easily decompose and become a part of the compost. Just don’t leave them at the top to dry; instead, bury them under the rest of the compost to speed up the process.

Another way to avoid the adverse environmental impact caused by paper filters is to switch to cloth or metal filters. These are reusable and, thus, are more eco-friendly.

However, when changing your filter type, expect a change in the taste of your coffee too.

You can look at the following table to compare the characteristics of different types of coffee filters and decide which one to go for:

Filter TypeCoffee TasteDurabilityCleaningEnvironmental Friendliness
PaperLight, crispSingle-useEasyMost waste, bleach is worse than unbleached, can be composted
ClothMedium, smoothCan be reusedDifficultExcellent
MetalHeavy, rich, aromaticLifetimeMediumExcellent
Comparisons between coffee filters

Which Is More Environmentally Friendly, Tea or Coffee?

two differently patterned mugs on a white table
Which Is More Environmentally Friendly, Tea or Coffee?

Tea is considered to be more environmentally friendly than coffee. The carbon footprint of tea is about 5-7 times lesser than that of coffee.

That’s because tea plantations and cultivation have fewer environmental repercussions than coffee. Also, the water requirement of producing coffee is much higher than tea.

But even while consuming tea, one must be very conscious in opting for ways to make it more sustainable. For example, single-use tea bags can be a bad choice as they contribute to waste volume.

Additionally, manual brewing methods are more eco-friendly than going for electric kettles. 

Again, adding milk to either of the drinks can make it less eco-friendly. 

Green tea is actually greener, both for your health and for the environment too.

To Sum It All Up

Every cup of coffee consumed around the world has an impact on the environment.

There’s no denying the fact that we all love drinking coffee and can’t afford to give it up. But what we can do is to look and opt for measures that can make our favorite drink sustainable so that we can enjoy every sip of it without having any guilt.

Buying shade-grown coffee beans, brewing them manually, selecting a reusable cup and filter, and taking care of waste disposal are some of the steps that we can take to keep enjoying our cup of joe without hurting the environment.

Trying out other more eco-friendly beverages like tea is also an option to satisfy our caffeine cravings while taking care of the environment too.

Being responsible citizens of this planet, we are obliged to take care of our environment and be very conscious of restricting all our practices that may harm it in any way.

Being conscious of how you take your coffee is the first step to a more sustainable future.

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Matt Marshall

As I learn more and more about coffee and coffee products I want to share all my learnings with you here on this website. I hope you find my articles useful and entertaining to read.

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