Coffee has a significant cultural significance. It’s ingrained in people’s history, cuisine, and daily lives all over the world. Coffee is a heavily traded product of enormous significance to global economies, with Americans alone consuming 400 million cups every day.
However, the millions of cups aren’t without consequence. Coffee’s cultivation, refining, and transportation – all that happens before it’s poured into our mugs – has significant environmental and social consequences.
Coffee beans are grown in tropical regions around the equator, known as the “Bean Belt,” and travel a long way before reaching our kitchen cabinets. Since the top coffee producers are Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, and Ethiopia, “local” coffee isn’t a choice for those living in the continental United States, and its effect will still be important.
More disruptive growing practises, such as monocropping and replacing shade-grown coffee with sun-grown, have resulted from increased demand and the undercutting of smallholders in coffee production. According to the Food Empowerment Project, coffee farmers receive just 7-10% of the retail price of their commodity, with less than 2% in Brazil.
Beyond its processing, the way we prepare and drink coffee can result in unnecessary waste, ranging from filters to mugs to spent coffee grounds. Fortunately, there are ways to make more informed decisions about your coffee, from the product to how it’s prepared.
If you can’t stop drinking coffee, here are some suggestions for making it more sustainable and responsible.