Make Your Coffee More Sustainable

by | Jul 19, 2022 | Food

Coffee is an essential part of many people’s daily routines, but it doesn’t always have the most positive environmental impact. 9.5 billion kg of coffee is produced each year, and that number is increasing. Growing and harvesting conventional coffee consumes large amounts of energy, water, and land, causing a loss of biodiversity. Transporting beans produces carbon emissions. The waste from single use cups piles up in landfills. But don’t worry—you don’t have to give up coffee. There are easy ways to reduce your coffee carbon footprint while still enjoying your caffeine!


Simple, inexpensive ways to make your morning drink more sustainable


1. Buy organic and sustainable coffee beans

Sourcing organic, fair trade coffee beans from a sustainable business is essential. “Conventional coffee is among the most chemically treated foods in the world. Organic coffee uses no synthetic fertilizers or chemicals in growing or production, which means cleaner beans, air, land, and water. Not only does the environment suffer from this overload, but so do the people who live in it and farmers are exposed to high levels of chemicals while spraying their crops. Organic farms combat climate change by emitting less carbon than chemical farms, while also sequestering significant amounts of carbon.”

Buying Fair Trade certified beans ensures the farmers who grew the beans received a fair price benefiting both their community and the environment. Learn more about ethical and sustainable coffee brands that employ these business models, donate additionally to organizations fighting climate change, use sustainable farming techniques, and provide ongoing support to small farms around the world!


2. Make your coffee at home

Making coffee at home can save you money and help the environment. Americans use 2.25 billion cups of coffee every day. Most paper cups can’t be recycled because they are coated in plastic, which leads to backups and contamination in recycling facilities. Plastic cups are often made with polypropylene, a plastic that is rarely accepted at recycling plants. Compostable cups are gaining popularity, but come with their own consequences. Most compostable cups require commercial composters rather than at-home composting, to which many communities lack access. Sometimes even compostable cups contain “forever chemicals,” like PFAS, which contaminate our bodies, soil and waterways. Avoiding single use K-Cups is a step in the right direction too, as this home brewing option has resulted in over 30 billion plastic cups sitting in landfills, enough to circle the world a dozen times.

One of the best ways to reduce your impact is to simply make coffee at home in a reusable mug. This reduces plastics in our water, soil, and air — and makes your space smell like coffee heaven!


3. BYOT: Bring an insulated thermos or coffee tumbler

Don’t keep your reusable habits at home. Plan ahead, so the next time you find yourself in a coffee shop, you’re prepared with a thermos or a reusable coffee tumbler. Americans use an estimated 120 billion disposable cups every year. Replacing just one disposable cup per day would save 23 pounds of GHGs (greenhouse gas emissions), 281 gallons of water and keep 16 pounds of solid waste from going to the landfill each year. Bringing a reusable thermos or tumbler is one easy step that has become increasingly popular around the world — and for good reason!


4. Drink cold brew or use a French press

Not only is the container you drink your coffee in important, but also how you make the coffee. Cold brew is one of the most sustainable ways to brew coffee by steeping grounds in water for 12 to 18 hours. This method does not require heat or pressure to brew, and is easy to make in large batches. You can ask for a cold brew at a coffee shop or make it at home.

Another sustainable way to brew is with a French press. French presses do not require filters, which means less waste, or boiling of water for as long as drip coffee or other methods, resulting in energy savings. Here are some recommendations for sustainable (and stylish!) French presses.


5. Use organic, non-dairy milk

Has TikTok convinced you to join the oat milk craze? Non-dairy milk has a significantly lower carbon footprint than cow or other animal-based milks. It tastes great, too! Oat milk has an 80% smaller carbon footprint than cow milk and requires little water and land. When choosing a dairy-free alternative, consider organic options, which are better for bees, people, natural resources and a world without toxic pesticides. You can try oat milk brands from your local grocer or make it easily and inexpensively at home! Organic hemp, coconut, hemp and soy milks are other good options that require less water and nitrogen fertilizers and emit less pollution in production than dairy.


6. Compost your grounds

Coffee grounds are some of the best and easiest products to compost. Coffee grounds put nitrogen into the soil, a natural fertilizer that helps plants grow. Coffee grounds can also keep slugs, snails, and even cats away from your plants. Have a composting bin? You can also toss coffee filters in because most break down with ease. Find out how to compost your coffee grounds based on your method of choice.


Stay caffeinated while making a difference

Tackling global coffee sustainability needs every sector to step up and act. As more people seek out organic beans, reusable mugs or thermoses, organic milks, and fair-trade options, the demand for these products increases. By taking these small steps, you can significantly and positively reduce the impact of your cup of coffee and push the demand for more sustainable products around the world. Try integrating these tasty steps into your daily routine!



  • Julie Larick

    Julie is a junior studying English Literature and Environmental Humanities at The College of Wooster. This fall, she will study abroad at The University of Oxford. Growing up in Northeast Ohio, Julie developed a passion for environmental justice after seeing food and health inequalities in Cleveland. In addition, she is interested in sustainable fashion and enjoys sewing with her mom’s vintage fabrics and thrifting. Currently, Julie volunteers for the Sunrise Movement as a national organizer. She is also an award-winning poet and publishes her writing in various literary magazines. In her free time, Julie loves hiking with friends, going to the local farmers’ market, swimming in Lake Erie, and exploring National Parks (Acadia National Park is her favorite)!