We’re big lovers of great coffee at Evachill HQ. In fact, we always start our day the right way with a large cappuccino. And we’re not the only ones as according to research by Square, 46% of Australians are also coffee drinkers.
With coffee becoming a daily habit for many, what impact does this have on the environment and what can we do to make coffee a little more eco-friendly to fit into a sustainable lifestyle?
How is coffee bad for the environment?
First, let’s take a look at the main ways coffee impacts the environment.
Coffee used to be typically grown in the shade in a method referred to as “shade-grown”. However, this method was largely considered to be inefficient. In the 1970s as the market demand grew, farmers were encouraged to switch their coffee production method to sun cultivation.
Sun cultivated coffee involves clearing forestry so that coffee can be grown in rows with no overhead canopy. It’s estimated that in Central America over 2.5 million acres of forest has been cleared just to accommodate for sun cultivated coffee production.
Deforestation to grow coffee, in turn, destroys ecosystems, decreases the diversity of plants, and has an overall negative impact on the region’s biodiversity.
Water pollution and contamination
Unfortunately, regardless of the method used to grow coffee, water contamination can occur. The major source of this water pollution comes from the discharge from coffee processing plants.
The resulting contamination of rivers and waterways can reduce the oxygen in the water, amongst other things. This has a massive impact on the aquatic plants and wildlife living there.
Manufacturing coffee generates large amounts of waste in the form of pulp, residual matter and parchment. This is largely from the process of separating the coffee beans from the coffee cherries.
Thankfully, some coffee farmers have acknowledged the huge amount of waste that’s been created. Recently, farmers have mixed coffee waste with manure to use as organic fertiliser.
As we’ve mentioned above, the production of sun cultivated coffee causes forestry to be cut down. This destroys the habitat of many birds and wildlife that would have naturally eaten the insects that are attracted to the coffee plants.
To compensate for the lack of natural predators, farmers use pesticides and chemicals to kill any pests. A recent study from The World Resources Institute (WRI) reported the health risks from our exposure to pesticides. There is also a noted correlation between the removal of shade cover from Central American coffee plantations and the increased use of nitrogen fertiliser.
When coffee is produced through sun cultivation it tends to have a negative impact on the quality of the soil. It’s thought that the lack of shade cover causes a higher rate of erosion.
The low quality of the soil makes it difficult to replant trees in the same space and forces farmers to use fertilisers.
This isn’t so much down to the production of coffee but rather from the consumption of it. Nowadays, coffee is often served in plastic cups and accompanied with plastic stirrers, plastic lids, paper carriers and napkins.
Unfortunately, most of these items can be reusable and recyclable but often just end up in the bin. This is particularly a problem for coffee that’s taken away to drink on the go.
5 easy ways to make your coffee habit more sustainable
Now let’s look at some easy things we can do to make our coffee eco-friendly and make a difference.
1. Go Fairtrade and organic
Ethically, it’s always better to go for Fairtrade options whenever possible. Fairtrade prices are set by the Fair Trade Labelling Organisation so it ensures that coffee farmers are paid a fair price for their product. Fairtrade standards help small-scale farmers compete against the bigger brands.
Fairtrade also supports environmental sustainability and sustainable production methods. Many Fairtrade coffee farmers tend to grow their coffee organically. This reduces the amount of pesticides and fertilisers that are used throughout the production process.
So consuming Fairtrade and organic coffee is not only good for the environment but as it’s been produced using fewer chemicals it’s better for your health too!
Fairtrade coffee options aren’t always available though so as an alternative you can support local coffee farmers who produce their coffee in Australia.
2. Reduce the use of coffee pods
There are loads of options available to make a decent cup of coffee at home. One of the most common offerings from brands such as Nespresso and Nescafe are coffee pods. Whilst these are certainly convenient and can make super tasty coffee, they’re not environmentally friendly. Most of the empty pods just end up in a landfill.
If using coffee pods is a must then luckily there are some eco-friendly solutions. Some companies are now offering biodegradable coffee pods that take just 180 days to biodegrade and are compatible with most coffee machines. Brands, such as Nespresso, have acknowledged the problem and made a conscious effort to recycle the coffee pods. Though it’s not clear how successful this is.
There are also loads of video tutorials on YouTube that show how to reuse and refill coffee pods so they’re no longer just single-use.
3. Reusable coffee cups
If you drink your daily coffee on the go then it’s worth investing in a reusable cup. This reduces the need for a daily plastic cup and reduces the amount of single-use plastic that’s thrown away every day.
Of course, you could use one of our reusable Evachill bottles to stay eco on the go! Our thermal bottles are double insulated so your coffee will stay hot for over 12 hours. They’re also 100% BPA-free, toxin-free and leaching-free so you know they’re good for a sustainable lifestyle and a healthy body.
Some coffee shops have even been known to offer a discount on your daily coffee if your bring in your own reusable cup so you’re saving the environment and your bottom line!
4. Buy shade-grown coffee
Shade-grown coffee is more environmentally friendly than sun cultivated coffee production. Instead of forestry being removed, coffee plants are planted beneath trees.
Not only is this method of coffee production considered to produce tastier coffee, but it’s healthier too. The vegetation provides the necessary habitat for natural predators to protect the coffee plants from pests. This results in coffee farmers using fewer fertilisers and pesticides.
Shade-grown coffee does tend to be more expensive to buy but it’s definitely the more eco-friendly option. Coffee that’s produced this way will be identified as “shade-grown” on the packet.
5. Recycle your coffee grounds
We mentioned above that coffee farmers are recycling coffee waste. You can also take a leaf out of their book and do the same!
Used coffee grounds are close to PH neutral and are rich in nitrogen. This makes them great as a homemade fertiliser.
Used coffee grounds are also being used for all sorts of other DIY solutions. Everything from deodorising your fridge to a homemade exfoliating face scrub.