5 tips for more ethical coffee consumption

On Thursday, October 1, we will be paying tribute to one of our longest-lasting love affairs, as we celebrate World Coffee Day.

According to legend, coffee began its rise to fame when first discovered by an Ethiopian goat herder, thousands of years ago. Now, it’s the key ingredient in our favourite body scrubs, liquors and desserts (hello, tiramisu!), not to mention our no 1. reason to get out of bed each morning. There really is no denying the huge significance this aromatic brew holds in our daily lives.

The varied use of coffee today, plus the expansion in brewing methods, have seen its popularity steadily increase. Recently, researchers debunked some of the previously misreported health concerns of coffee consumption, and the UN officially removed coffee from its list of possible carcinogens. In fact, there are a number of studies that indicate drinking a moderate amount of coffee (less than six cups per day) could actually be beneficial for our health.

So, we’ve officially been given the green light on drinking coffee from a health perspective — yay! But, when it comes to the health of our planet, coffee still has a fair bit to answer for. With a staggering 2.25 billion cups of coffee consumed globally each day, the environmental impacts of coffee are far-reaching. Many of the biggest problems in the coffee industry occur at the supply chain level, and it can feel a little impossible for us regular folk to ever really make an impact on something so large and complicated.

However, never underestimate the power we have as consumers. There are a few simple things that you can do to help minimise your coffee footprint.

Five tips towards more ethical coffee consumption:

Do your research and choose better coffee

Where and how coffee is grown can have a huge impact on our environment. Coffee plantations are responsible for widespread deforestation, which destroys natural habitat and leads to increased carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Coffee farming is also responsible for significant water usage and chemical runoff, not to mention unethical systems contributing to icky human rights issues like child exploitation and slave labour.

Supply chains for coffee can be complicated and it’s not always clear where beans are coming from or how they are farmed. The best you can do as a consumer is to dig a little deeper, try to find out as much as you can, and choose brands/suppliers who consider sustainability.

Look at official certifications like Rainforest Alliance and Australian Certified Organic (ACO) which ensure farming is more environmentally friendly. You could also talk to your barista or local roaster, who may be able to tell you more about the beans they sell and why they choose to buy from specific producers.

Use a Reusable Coffee Cup

We’re going to assume by now that you’re well aware of the evils of disposable coffee cups. Thankfully, there are plenty of options these days for reusable coffee cups — like our very own Camino. Choose to use a reusable coffee cup and not only will you be saving the planet one flat white at a time, but you can also save cash, with many cafes offering a discount if you use your own cup.

Sweeter sweeteners

If you’re one of the many people who enjoy a little sugar in your coffee, you can relax — there’s no judgement here. However, what you use to sweeten your cup does make a difference. In Australia, sugarcane farming has some pretty nasty environmental impacts including habitat destruction, increased water use, and fertilizer runoff. In fact, pesticide and sediment runoff from cane farming in Queensland is responsible for polluting the Great Barrier Reef lagoon — yuck! So, skip the cane sugar and opt for a more eco-friendly sweetener, like sustainably grown honey, organic maple sugar, or DIY date sugar.

Better Brewing

When brewing at home, look for the lowest waste option. French press, Turkish stovetop, or pour-over coffee drippers are all low-impact options, as is instant coffee. Capsule coffee pods are ok too, as long as you can safely recycle the leftover pods — although this usually requires cleaning out all the coffee grinds from the pods, which can be pretty messy and annoying. Or, look for reusable filters for your percolator or Aeropress, and save the paper waste.

Milk matters

Chances are you’re already well aware of the nasty effect the meat and dairy industries have on greenhouse gas emissions. You might not be ready to go full vegan, but reducing the amount of dairy and meat products you consume day-to-day is a great start. Why not skip the au-lait and take your coffee black? If you can’t quite stomach the intensity of black coffee, consider switching to plant-based milk alternatives. There are many different options available and each varies in terms of taste, nutrition and carbon footprint. So, try a few options out and find the best one for you.

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