How to “Green” Your Caffeine

I know, I know. You all need caffeine. The great debate: coffee or tea? Would you be surprised to find that many people haven’t just asked that question, but have also questioned which is more environmentally friendly to consume? No worries; we definitely won’t be chastising anyone for their brew of choice. 🙂

The first tea tree planted in Kenya is a stable reminder of how natural the "caffeine impact" is supposed to be.

But I do want us to consider how we can make our brew choices more eco-oriented. This is a tough question, because it’s very hard for many of us to consider changing habits around our most treasured beverages. Now, a quick fact: coffee and tea rank right below water and crude oil for global consumption. That’s a double-edged sword, folks: not only would it be hard to give them up, if we all made our consumption greener we could impact quite a bit for good!

There are a number of tips you can think about from Discovery right here. But for the time being, I can tell you a number of things off the top of my head that are easy, and you can do mostly without thinking, if you’re already drinking them:

1) Reuse your mug. This is easy if you’re an at-home brewer, but it makes a bigger difference if you’re buying in public. Saves the environment from more paper products that won’t ever be fully used again, and most coffee shops offer a discount for bringing your own container!

2) It’s true the coffee shops are great for friendships, WiFi and local business support. But if you brew from home, you know exactly what you’re doing to prepare it and what happens to the refuse. For example, you can make sure you’re using paper filters much less (if not at all), and that you’re spreading your coffee grounds or tea leaves on the tops of your plants (micro-composting, really). Plus you have more of a handle on brewing just as much as you intend to use, no more or no less.

3) Brew in-advance. Sounds tricky, but an explanation my help: If you manage to get a large enough thermos, like the one here, you can brew all the coffee you want for the day, pour it in the thermos, and save all the energy you would use by brewing it again, keeping the coffee plate warm, or reheating the coffee.

4) Use a press. If you think the French press is only good for coffee, guess again! The Bodum company makes a gorgeous little teapot press. Why use a press? Apart from the superior taste quality, loose leaves and grounds rid the land of more now-wasted-paper filters and bags, as well as all that extra energy it took to produce them. (Though in all fairness to my British and Anglophile fellows, as long as your tea bags are unbleached, you’re not doing nearly as much damage wasting the bags.)

5) We’ve already discussed Fair Trade as an economic incentive for companies here. And most of us who are really into Eco-Care don’t find it a surprise that fair-trading also ensures social justice for the indigenous workers and economy. But also consider how it affects the land as well: those products you buy as labeled “Fair Trade” ensure quality growing techniques, with no chemicals, harmful modes of aeration, and natural, interdependent eco-system surroundings. (And this is a business-friendly concept — for example, even tea giant Lipton has made a conscious choice to green-up by joining the Rainforest Initiative, which guarantees complete sustainability by 2015.)

Boy, I like that; I hope it becomes a catch-phrase: Green Your Caffeine! 🙂

Michael+

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