We North Americans drink a LOT of coffee. Non-fair trade equals supporting slave and child labour, we could just as easily label those coffee beans 'blood beans'... Check out my post on ethics for more info. I've also mentioned how we use 23 BILLION cups a year, all to be thrown in the landfill. You think that little 'biodegradable' symbol on your cup means anything? Think again, most municipalities are not equipped to deal with 'compostable' coffee cups, so out to your neighbourhood garbage pile (aka landfill) (Haligonians, read here for our own personal greenwashing- JustUs!).
Think your personal change won't make a difference? Read this little article over at the Onion, seriously, it's awesome.
So how do we green our coffee? (N.B. same ideas could apply to tea...)
My Coffee Arsenal....
Step One: Bring Your Own Mug (BYOM). And invest in a good one that will last a few years. Preferably stainless steel as it won't leach icky plastic and phtalates into your coffee and something you'll LOVE to carry around. Even though I had serious buyers remorse after spending 27$ on mine, it has lasted 5 years and despite dents and scratches, keeps my coffee hot the entire morning.
Tips: remember to wash out your mug the night before (I put mine in the 'to wash' dishes space)... rotten milk doesn't smell too great....
Step Two: Make your own coffee. This step actually has phases. What I've discovered is that coffee tastes are a personal preference. I like medium roasted, Cafe Femenino Peru (sadly not carried in Halifax anymore). You might like a darker or lighter roast.
2 a) buy fair trade organic coffee whenever possible. Although a few dollars more per pound, if you can spare two dollars per bag there is no other way. Non-fair trade coffee means slave labour, minimal women and child rights and overall abuse on entire societies and cultures. Just for your cup of jo.
2 b) buy a small coffee grinder, mine was under 20$. If the main reason you're not making your own coffee is because you think pre-ground tastes like crap... it's because you're right. Grinding your own fresh each morning takes 5 extra seconds, is fun and tastes a zillion times better.
2 c) Get a reusable coffee filter. Seriously made for us lazies in the world, reusable coffee filters are awesome. You just rinse them out like any screen-type dealy and the grinds that filter through are negligible. Unless you are the ultimate coffee bean snob, you won't notice.
2 d) Invest in a French Press. This was the final step for coffee making chez nous. The perfect solution for all you counter space deficient apartment dwellers. It takes a few extra steps (boil the water, making sure the French Press is actually cleaned the night before, sitting for exactly 4 minutes...), but the coffee tastes YUMMY.
Step Three: Whenever possible, ask for your coffee 'for here' in a mug. If I'm not on my way to work, this is usually what Andrew and I do. I see it this way; if I can spare 10 minutes to sit and enjoy each others company, then why add another throw-away cup to the pile? I'm gonna suck back the coffee in about that time anyway.
Step Four: customize your coffee at home so that you LIKE drinking coffee made at home. If you're anything like me, my ultimate coffee experience isn't coffee at all... but espresso drenched in chocolate. In order to replicate this I have come up with a system. Here are some of my favs:
- use honey instead of sugar. Local honey adds a whole other flavour, is better for you and tastes great!
- use fair trade organic dark brown sugar
- use fair trade organic chocolate (Haligonians, JustUs! carries a spicy chocolate powder- YUM).
- use chocolate milk (this is for emergencies only...)
- sprinkle in some cinnamon, nutmeg or other spice that you like.
Step Five: Start supporting small, local roasters. Let them know what you like about their company (i.e. selling fair trade organic, composting and recycling at their shops) and what you'd like to see more of (more aggressive BYOM campaigns, stop claiming that their cups are compostable, bringing back café femenino- ok those are mine... but you know what I mean). Simple, intelligent and rationally written emails can do the trick.
Step Six: Buy locally roasted, fair trade organic coffee beans in bulk. This one is our recent phases, for some reason I had this impression that although from the same company, the beans at the bulk section of our local organic grocery store were ick. I have no idea why. Recently, I bought a whole bunch, asked for a paper bag to put them in (had forgotten my cloth produce bag at home) and they now reside in a glass container. The paper bag is currently being used to hold our frozen blueberries.
How do you green your coffee?
article and photographs copyright of EcoYogini at ecoyogini.blogspot.com