If you’re anything like me, you wouldn’t survive a workday without that steaming, morning cup o’ Joe. And the four to five cups that follow it. Okay, maybe I have a problem but who doesn’t these days?
Seriously—we’re a coffee loving society, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. Unfortunately, like most of the best things in this life, our consumption of coffee can come with some hefty environmental consequences. We’re here to help you navigate those consequences and identify some solutions.
The key to becoming a sustainable coffee drinker is to know where and how your coffee was grown. Coffee is a tropical shrub, originally hailing from the shady understories of lush tropical canopies in Ethiopia. But as coffee cultivation spread around the world and demand surged, farmers began turning to new techniques to boost their yields. They started cultivating different strains of coffee in full-sun monocultures—strains that produced higher yields and profits in the short-term, but led to deforestation, soil erosion, pollution, and a loss of wildlife habitat over the years.
Fortunately, as more consumers have begun to demand coffee that doesn’t wreck the planet, shade cultivation and other sustainable growing techniques have seen a revival. Want to get in on this? Look for coffee that’s been certified by the Rainforest Alliance, which emphasizes conserving standing forests or reforesting degraded landscapes, or by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Institute, which ensures its coffee is providing quality habitat for our feathered friends and other wildlife.
Doing your part to tackle carbon pollution will also help coffee in the long-run. Like many other beloved crops, the most popular species are sensitive to changes in temperature and rainfall and could see their ranges contract as human-caused climate change progresses.
You could also, you know, try cutting back. Maybe spend less time getting mad on Twitter and more time catching those z’s and you won’t need that fifth cup by 3pm? That’s a goal we can all work towards.