by Andrea Contreras, '19
It’s dead week (the week before finals). You feel dead inside. But coffee helps.
To help you get through the week, here is a semi-comprehensive guide on how to drink coffee a little more sustainably. From the dining hall coffee drinker to the one whose name is known by most Coupa staff, hope you enjoy!
Why am I taking your time: From its production to its disposal coffee has an enormous environmental and social impact. It involves clearing forests across the equator, heavy pesticide use, increased erosion of landscapes, unjust pay and working conditions for farmers, and a lot of waste (400 million cups a day in the US alone!). If you are at all like me, and survive off of 4-5 shots of espresso a day, here are some tips to decrease your impact, and still be able to function as a human. Although I do drink a lot of coffee, and try make my way around different spots on campus, this is by no means a complete guide, feel free to share your experiences and tips! Making conscious decisions on an almost daily drink for people around the world can have a huge positive impact for countless individuals.
If you make coffee in your room: Those plastic pods are evil. You know the ones I’m talking about. The single serve contraption may seem convenient, but usually ends up getting pretty pricey, and will sit tidy in a landfill long after your time here. There is good news! They make refillable pods, that are pretty easy to find online, so you can keep your machine, save money making coffee, and be a little less trashy. If you are looking to get your own coffee making machine, opt for some other great alternatives like a french press, or use a (compostable!) filter to make your coffee. When getting coffee beans try to go for some that are local, fair trade, or have less packaging. This makes sure that less carbon dioxide was emitted at transport, that farmers got a greater share of the final profit and were more fairly compensated for their hard work, or that less trash will be produced. There are lots of places a walk or short bike ride away that offer these. Some include Coupa, Blue Bottle, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s. You can also opt for reusables, like bamboo or metal cutlery for stirring, and mugs/cups of your own.
If you drink it at a dining hall: This solution is simple! Dining halls around campus tend to be mindful when sourcing the food we are served around campus. If you are super inspired by this post, feel free to send them an email, and ask about where they source their coffee. Not happy? Lot’s of companies around the world are taking steps to improve how this works, look some up at suggest your dining hall or house supply these instead. Another step you can take? Use a reusable mug! While many dining halls do have compostable cups for warm beverages, this is still a product that required intensive energy use and resource extraction that will only be used for a short amount of time. Use they ones they provide, or if you are feeling adventurous, bring one from your own collection!
If you buy coffee from a coffee shop: This is at least a few hundred of you, because I have seen the line outside of Philz. One of the best things to do is bring your own mug! There are tons of designs for these in all colors, levels of leak-proofing, patterns, and temperatures available (not really the iced-coffee season, but you do you). This is super easy to do, just ask the barista if they can use your cup instead, and in many places you can even get a discount! I have personally benefited from these discounts at Starbucks, Coupa, and the campus bookstore, but there may be other locations around campus that do this! Places like CoHo and Coupa will also serve your coffee in ceramic mugs if you ask them to, so if you are deathly afraid of washing dishes this can be a great option for you. CoHo also has some pretty cool christmas mugs that are right in season, and I personally think ceramic mugs just look really cool. Asking places who do not offer reusable mugs if they would be willing to supply this can also make positive change, you have a lot of power as a consumer. Another important thing is to ask your coffee shop where they source their coffee, but there are several places around campus that provide fair-trade and shade grown coffee, which help lower their social and environmental impacts.
Hope these tips helped, and that you will make more conscious decisions while trying to stay awake for one of the worst weeks of the year!
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