5 Ways to be a Conscientious Coffee Drinker

Turn your morning go-to beverage into a greener and ethical drink.


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Most people start their mornings with a hot cup of Joe. It’s a great way to get up and get going. So whether you brew your own at home or stop by your local café for a cup to go, there are ways to make your coffee greener, kinder, and you may even save some money.

Coffee has what the Sierra Club calls a complicated record in terms of its environmental impact. Coffee is grown in places like Columbia or Ethiopia and is shipped across the oceans by cargo ships, then energy is used to roast, grind and brew the beans, served in usually noncombustible cups and stirred by plastic or wood stirrers. And that doesn’t take into account the human factor of coffee farmers who earn little for their hard work.

But as a coffee consumer, you can make conscientious choices in how you purchase, how you brew, what take-away cups you use, and even what you put in your cup.

Bring Your Own Reusable Cup

Having coffee on the go. Bring your own reusable cup and help save the planet. Every year, 16 billion disposable coffee cups are used and thrown away. There is a plastic laminate inside the cup that makes it hard to recycle. It’s even worse if you use a plastic lid or a Styrofoam cup. Also, skip the one-use plastic or wood stirrers and add your sweetener and creamer first, just shake it, or bring your own spoon. Plastic coffee stirrers go into our oceans or landfills at alarming rates.

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Buy Fair Trade Coffee

Fair trade coffee offers farmers in third world countries a living wage for their wok usually through growers’ coops. Many of the brands are ethically sourced ad organic. Today you can find fair trade coffee in coffee shops like Starbucks, in greengrocers or on line. Ethical coffee makes a great holiday gift. Make mine strong, black and fair trade.

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Say No To Dairy

Drink your coffee black or use a natural plant-based product like almond, coconut, or soy milk. You can help save the planet or at least a cow. If you do want to put dairy products in your coffee, you can buy organic milk from ethically treated cows but keep in mind that dairy production has a huge carbon footprint. If you drink your coffee sweet, use natural unrefined sugar.

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Use a Non-electric Coffee Maker

Unplug and use a French press or a Melitta coffee drip cup – use a reusable filter or recycled paper filters – for less waste. Heat up just the water you need and you can even use a manual coffee grinder instead of an electric one.

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Upcycle Your Used Coffee Grounds

There are so many uses for old coffee grounds. You can put it in your garden or house plants, repel pests, scour really dirty pots and pans, deodorize your garbage disposal, clean your drains, and so much more. With winter coming to the Northern hemisphere, you can use coffee grounds to safely de-ice your walkways. Just don’t forget to wipe your feet.

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