Why Your Coffee Habit Isn't Eco-Friendly (And Ways to Make Sure It Is)


Coffee cup surrounded with nature

Photo by Free-Photos from Pixabay

You get out of bed. You go through your morning motions. But most importantly, whether it’s at home or on the go, you’ve just got to have a cup of morning joe to start off your day. Sound familiar?

Unfortunately for you, regularly consuming coffee has a huge impact on the environment. And you're not alone. Two-thirds of the population in Canada drinks at least one cup of coffee each day. But while the coffee industry (and our morning energy levels) are flourishing, the environment isn’t. So let’s look at why drinking coffee is bad for the environment, and how we can be more eco-friendly coffee lovers.

Disposable Coffee Cups 

Disposable coffee cup on the street

Image by Jasmin Sessler from Pixabay

This one is a no-brainer. Around 600 billion coffee cups are used each year across the globe, and a majority of them are either tossed as litter or get thrown in the wrong bin. In fact, most single-use coffee cups that do get placed in the right bins still don’t end up being recycled because of their plastic lining. The lining keeps the cup waterproof, but is difficult to separate from the paper, making recycling the cup near impossible. Put two and two together and you’ve got landfills filled to the brim with waste, and as we’ve discussed in a previous post, that waste isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The Drink Itself

And while most people have their eyes on the cup they’re holding, it’s also important to be conscious of the drink inside it.

Making coffee

Image by rawpixel from Pixabay

Producing a single cup of coffee uses a whopping 37 gallons of water and releases about 150g of carbon dioxide. To give some perspective, the same amount of resources could be spent on two-and-a-half hot baths and a one-kilometer drive.

What You Can Do

In the face of all this doom and gloom, the easiest solution would be to simply give up coffee altogether. But we understand that that’s easier said than done, so here are some things you can do to be a more eco-friendly drinker.

  • 1. Look into Alternatives

  • Before you consider dropping your morning cup of joy like yesterday's trash, you might want to see what other options you have. Many people are making the change to black tea because it achieves the same effect while being comparatively easier on the environment. A study in 2010 on Darjeeling tea carbon emissions found that both organic and conventional tea has only half the amount of global warming potential (GWP) as the same amount of coffee.

    Comparison between a cup of tea and a cup of coffee in terms of global warming potential (Graph courtesy of Doublet and Jungbluth, 2010).

  • 2. Ditch the Single-Use Cup

  • If you absolutely must have coffee in your life, that’s also perfectly fine. Just avoid taking it with a disposable cup at all costs. Get a travel mug or reusable bottle/cup/tumbler instead and take it with you!

    However, keep in mind that not all reusable containers are created equal. Always look for the right product to fit your needs. For example, get one that is big enough for your usual coffee order (typically, standard cup sizes come between 8-20 oz. It's best to aim for at least 16oz, the equivalent of most large cups). The material of your container is also important, as all of them (from glass to silicone) have their own pros and cons. We recommend stainless steel, as it lasts much longer than most other materials and is 100% recyclable.

  • 3. Buy From People Who Care

  • Coffee is coffee, right? 

    Not quite. There are many coffee brewers who are doing their part for the sake of an eco-friendly product, but there are also some who aren’t caring as much as they should.

    Research the coffee brands that you purchase from. Check to see if there’s a certification label or two. The most common ones include Rainforest Alliance Certified, Fair Trade USA Certified and Bird-Friendly. And if you’re struggling to find certified coffee, it’s always best to go for shade-grown, organic and/or fair trade coffee.

    Coffee line

    Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay

    Remember, little changes go a long way! Even if you can only follow one of the above tips, it still makes a lasting impact, so take it slow, and do what you can. Eventually you’ll be living the Eco-life in no-time.

    And we hope that you found this post enlightening and the tips useful. As always, even if it doesn't quite resonate with you, chances are there's someone else in your life who'd appreciate it, so please, spread the Eco-love!

    With Love and Compassion,

    Team Karunaki