The idea of “Green Consumerism” began in the 90’s with a rise in consumer awareness of sustainable product development and end user responsibility. While the term has been around for a while, now in 2017 we are more aware than ever the wider impact our consumer footprints have on the world. The news is right in our pockets, and now living with your head in the sand is no longer an option. But with the rise in green consumerism globally, where does the coffee industry sit?
Unfortunately in Australia, we are still a little behind the times. Disposable coffee cups that appear to be made of paper, thus recyclable, have been found to contain plastic lining that do not biodegrade, meaning they end up in landfill and creating serious biohazards. A recent estimate stated that Australians use around 1 billion disposable coffee cups per year, and are the second highest contributor to litter after plastic water bottles.
There are a couple of things you can do to address this issue personally, as they say, you vote with your money.
Firstly, make your coffee at home! Even better if you use Organic Coffee beans. Not only will you save a whole lot of money, avoid using wasteful paper cups, you’ll also learn a whole lot more about coffee beans and brewing. And who doesn’t love learning. Though there is an initial outlay of costs, it won’t take long for everything to even out.
But if you are buying from a cafe, make the time to sit down and drink it there, in a ceramic cup. Not only does it taste better, you’re earning a little pause in a day to regroup, and I don’t know a person alive who wouldn’t benefit from a 10 minute time out. But we understand that sometimes you really can’t make the time, and this is when you bring your own re-usable takeaway cup. There are HEAPS of re-usable cups on the market but our personal favourite is Frank Green. Beautifully designed, glass lined cups fitted with awesome technology that let’s you order and pay with your cup!
Sometimes you get into a tight spot, you need coffee, you didn’t bring your cup, what the heck are you gonna do. Well, it’s as simple as refusing a lid. Just tell your barista that you’re trying to do your bit, and would like to forgo the lid on your takeaway cup. Unless you’re about to run a marathon with your flat white, then do you really need a lid? And if you’re on good terms with your local cafe, maybe start chatting to them about the brand of cups they use. It might not even have crossed their minds, and it’s definitely worth thinking about. Biopak is an Australian company that makes good looking disposable foodware, and the whole company is carbon neutral.
Some pretty cool dudes in Berlin are pioneering a re-usable cup give and take system, where you sign up as a customer to take and return re-usable cups to the participating local cafes. The cups are made of bamboo and are dishwasher safe, helping to combat the problem of having to carry around your coffee cup everywhere you go.
Unfortunately the UK is not doing so well in this area, with the government recently rejecting a call to introduce a 5p fee on using disposable cups, after saying that the industry and major coffee chains were already implementing their own actions, such as offering discounts to customers for using re-usable cups. Having just recently visited the UK, I personally saw not a single person with a re-usable cup, it seems like a very strange excuse for a system that would work effectively. Off the back of their 5p fee for the use of single use plastic bags, which saw their consumption reduce from 3.5 billion to 500 million in the first six months of the policy, it seems especially strange.
We’ve already discussed the incredibly wasteful (not to mention generally terrible) K-Cup epidemic, but if you insist on using that machine, you can always purchase re-usable pods, and fill them with their own fresh grounds, thus eliminating the worst two aspects of them, their wasteful pods and stale coffee inside.
Are there any ways you are reducing your footprint when it comes to coffee? We would love to hear them!