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Sustainable coffee: 8 ways to green your daily habit

Zero Waste
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Starting each day with a comforting cup of coffee is a habit that many of us frankly can’t function without. Having a cup or two may seem unremarkable at the time but all those beans and the environmental impacts of producing and transporting them add up! If you are as hooked as we are, and want to ensure that your coffee routine is as sustainable as possible here are some eco-friendly tips for your daily grind!

1. Brew your coffee at home

This is a simple way to avoid waste from single-use cups and ensure your morning brew is sustainably sourced. From drip-coffee makers to single-serve machines there are many convenient styles of household coffee appliances to suit your preference. You can even get a dual model if your household members have differing tastes!

 

2. Look for labels that indicate Fairtrade, organic, and/or bird-friendly certifications

It’s important to vote for sustainable values through your buying habits, especially for an item that you are drinking every day! The first label to take note of is the Fairtrade Mark which indicates that the product meets international Fairtrade Standards. The Standards ensure that farmers and workers involved in the production of the coffee are paid a stable minimum price, and meet core International Labour Organization conventions. The Standards also ensure that sustainable community and environmental practices are afforded and followed.

Sustainable coffee labels: Fairtrade, Canada Organic, USDA Organic, Smithsonian Bird Friendly

In addition, looking for Certified Organic coffee can ensure a more eco-friendly cup. Certified organic products are grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Organically grown agriculture generally has environmental benefits for soil and wildlife, as well as for the health of those working in the fields. When purchasing organic products in Canada, you can look for either the USDA Organic Seal or the Canada Organic Label. They are considered to have the same standards.

Going beyond organic (but harder to find) is the Smithsonian Bird Friendly certification. It indicates coffee that is Certified Organic AND grown in an environment that protects biodiversity and maintains native trees. For the certification, a plantation must meet specific criteria (detailed here) based on conservation science which encourages better bird habitat, soil protection, erosion control, and carbon sequestration.

sustainable shade grown coffee bushes
Coffee bushes in a shade-grown organic coffee plantation on the western slopes of the Andes in Ecuador. Image credit: Regeneration International

3. Drink what you make!

Did you know that your coffee has likely traveled across the world to land in your cup? The majority of suitable land for growing coffee is in the Southern Hemisphere. However, the largest demand for it comes from the Northern Hemisphere.  Thus, carbon emissions from the global transport of coffee are an unfortunate but unavoidable consequence of getting a morning fix.

Surprisingly, some research indicates that single-serve pods have a smaller impact on the environment as they can prevent wastage, compared to brewing a large pot that ends up in the drain. That being said, you can reduce waste without a single-serve machine by noting your regular coffee cravings, and only making as much as you’re going to drink!Suitable land for growing coffee

 

4. Compost your coffee grounds and coffee filter

If you have a municipal food waste collection service or a garden compost bin, use them to return your coffee grounds back to the earth. An added bonus is that coffee grounds are very good at absorbing foul odours from other food waste!

Don’t have access to conventional composting? Coffee and filters can also be broken down through bokashi, worm-composting, or electric composting processes. Did you know that our ElectroRecycle collection locations accept old electric countertop composters for recycling?

 

5. Get a reusable coffee filter or reusable single pods

Avoiding single-use items immensely helps reduce waste, especially when it comes to brewing with a pod coffee maker! Although some compostable pods are now available, not all composting facilities accept them or operate with the right conditions to break them down. Finding recycling options for the plastic pods can also be tricky. Brewing with reusable pods is the most eco-friendly way to use a single-cup maker as it leaves you with just coffee grounds to compost!

6. Maintain and repair coffee making appliances

Reduce waste and save money by regularly cleaning and repairing your coffee maker. Cleaning can increase the lifespan of your appliance and repairing the old, instead of buying new, conserves resources. Not sure where to begin? Check out our blog post  – Troubleshooting Tips and Repair Resources for Small Appliances. It features helpful basic fixes and links to online resources such as the Fixit Club (whose Repair Guide is pictured below, click image for full instructions).

Additionally, we detail how you can connect with expert fixers. For example, did you know that you can join Virtual Fixing Sessions on Zoom through Fixit Clinic? The sessions are accessible globally and it is free to sign-up for repair help!

Repair coffee maker to be sustainable

 

7. Recycle broken electrical coffee appliances

Don’t despair if your efforts to repair are unsuccessful! ElectroRecycle partners with more than 200 locations across BC to recycle electric coffee appliances for free! Through our provincial program, it’s easy to keep small appliances like coffee makers, coffee grinders, electric kettles, and kitchen scales out of the landfill.

Our ElectroRecycle program conserves natural resources and protects the environment by giving more than 400 kinds of small electrical appliances and power tools a second life. Simply type in your postal code and use our online search tool to find a recycling collection location near you!Coffee appliances accepted for recycling by ElectroRecycle: Percolator, Espresso Maker, Electric Kettle, Drip Coffee Maker, Coffee Grinder, Pod Coffee Maker

 

8. Support local coffee shops and bring your reusable mug

When you need a boost on the go, purchase from local businesses that are committed to sustainable practices. Look for cafes that compost and offer metal spoons and porcelain cups. Cafes are also starting to take part in to-go cup-sharing initiatives, like Cuppy and Mug Share. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has largely put these initiatives on hold but hopefully, they can resume in the near future.

Although cup sharing initiatives have not yet resumed, many cafes have once more begun accepting reusable coffee mugs. With more than 260 million disposable cups being thrown out per year in the Metro Vancouver region a coffee cup here and there adds up to a lot of waste! So, bring your reusable mug when heading out each morning. If you forget a reusable mug, make it a rule that you don’t get a coffee that day. With such a devastating consequence, bringing a mug will be ground into your routine quickly!

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