How To Make Sure You’re An Ethical Coffee Drinker

You cup of coffee goes way beyond you.

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Australians have a gourmet coffee culture to brag about. Each café boasts of a specialty cold brew, single origin bean or a deconstructed latte. In fact, the caffeine-loving masses of Australia are buying an average of 50,000 cappuccinos every 30 minutes of daylight. Which is… a lot.

But the overwhelming demand for our beloved cup of joe has put a lot of pressure on our planet. At this rate, we’re brewing up an environmental catastrophe.

So, how can we have our cuppa and drink it too?

Check For A Certification Scheme Sticker

How To Be An Ethical Coffee Drinker

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Unfortunately, we’re drinking from an industry that’s about as sustainable as a low-carb diet on an Italian holiday. Thankfully, there are a few coffee certification schemes that help consumers direct their business towards the more ethical choices.

Fair Trade is one of them, and they’re primarily concerned with alleviating poverty in international trade. Because coffee is a boom and bust commodity – meaning that weather conditions, disease, and other factors make the market very unstable – protection of the 125 million people who rely on coffee for their livelihood is important.

There’s also the Rainforest Alliance that has a recognisable green frog logo, and as of January 2018 are officially merged with another sustainable scheme certification – UTZ. This certification covers a number of ecological issues as well as fair treatment of workers in the industry.

Then there’s also the Bird-Friendly (Smithsonian Migratory Bird Centre). Due to an increased market demand for beans, a whole lotta deforestation has occurred to keep us caffeinated. Our coffee is being grown in purpose-made environments without precious canopies (AKA, homes to some of the world’s most unique wildlife). This is problematic because coffee is grown in the world’s most delicate ecosystems, and the exceptional biodiversity is interrupted and threatened.

Finding coffee that passes the rigorous tests above is half the battle. But so, so worth it to ensure your caffeine is fair as can be.

Actually Reuse Cups

You only have to turn your head on campus to see how popular reusable coffee cups like KeepCup are becoming. And so they should! Normal takeaway coffee cups are not made to be the planet’s pal. Although the cups look like they are paper and therefore recyclable, there’s a sneaky coating of nasty that stops our liquid gold leaking out onto our hands. They prolong the biodegradation process to 50 years or more. That’s a long environmental hang over for a coffee that takes you 10 minutes to drink.

Not only does using a reusable cup reduce your carbon foot print, but some cafes even support the #reuserevolution by giving you a small discount for bringing your own mug. 

Think Twice About Those Pods 

The aluminium coffee pods advertised so suavely by Mr Clooney and Nespresso are an environmental menace. Not too dissimilar from the issue with disposable cups; pods are a composite makeup of aluminium and plastic. Regular domestic recycling won’t cut it.

Fortunately, making your coffee at home saves you a pretty penny, and don’t need to cull them all together. Nespresso offers 19,000 collection points in Australia for you to drop off your aluminium pods. There are also a few brands that don’t use aluminium for their pods, like Australia’s EcoCaffe, or New Zealand’s Honest Coffee.

If you want to ditch the pods altogether, then turn to a trusty ol’ coffee plunger, and use the organic waste as compost or a shower body-scrub.

Finally, Talk About This Stuff With Your Friends

Yes, a license to be the unapologetic coffee connoisseur your friends roast you for being. Cheap coffee usually compromises quality and sustainability, so tell the world where you find the best blends. Knowledge really is key.

Our morning coffee does a lot for us, so we owe it to the people and land who supply it to us to stay woke.

(Lead image: Gilmore Girls/Warner Bros)