Coffee Talk: How to Make Your Favorite Beverage More Sustainable

How sustainable is your coffee

Thank you to Cameron’s Coffee for sponsoring this post

Are you one of those “don’t bother me until I’ve had my coffee” types? Me too! Seriously, that first cup of coffee is my favorite part of the day. Even when I drink coffee later in the day, it never tastes as good as that first cup.

When coffee is that critical to your day, it’s important to think beyond your own cup and make sure it’s good for the rest of the world too. With that in mind, here are a few ways to make sure your coffee fix is a sustainable one:

Brew at Home

coffee at homeProblem: That morning trip to Bigbucks is not only hard on your wallet, it’s bad for the environment too. Most disposable coffee cups are lined with plastic to keep them from leaking, which makes them questionable for your health (plastic + heat = bad news), and hard to recycle too. And while some people may bring their own reusable cups to coffee shops, the truth is that most people don’t.

Solution: Make coffee at home. It’s less expensive and you don’t have to leave the house to get it – which at least in my case, is much better for the world!

Buy Better Coffee

Problem: Being the #coffeeaddict that I am, I’ve learned over the years that not all coffee is created equal. There’s the taste factor of course, but also the factors behind how the beans were grown and how they made their way into the United States and into our cups. Most coffee is grown in developing countries, and in situations where the health and well-being of farmers, workers and the environment is easily overlooked. But overlooking the health and well-being of people and the earth isn’t a sustainable way to do business, now is it?

Solution: Pay attention to how your coffee was produced.

  • The USDA organic seal ensures that organic agriculture standards were followed.
  • Fair Trade certification means that the health and welfare of workers and communities was considered.
  • Rainforest Alliance certification ensures environmental, social and economic sustainability.
  • Shade grown provides habitat for songbirds, which in turn provides natural insect control.

Cameron's CoffeeExample: Cameron’s Coffee

I recently had the chance to tour Cameron’s Coffee, a national coffee producer that just happens to be located in the Twin Cities. As you can imagine, I was most interested in learning about the sustainable practices of the company. Turns out they have one of the greenest coffee facilities in the world, plus some other measures of quality that were impressive:

  • Their sustainable portfolio includes USDA Organic, Rainforest Alliance Certified, Shade Grown and Fair Trade Certified coffees
  • Cameron’s designed a coffee roaster with a catalytic afterburner that has 8x energy savings over traditional roasters
  • Cameron’s eliminated water waste in grinding and cleaning processes
  • Their production uses gravity fed lines that are less energy intensive
  • All coffees are small-batch roasted for quality
  • Cameron’s packaging process eliminates 99% of oxygen (the enemy of fresh coffee)
  • Filtered Single Serve Cartons are 30% post-consumer waste and recyclable
  • Competitively priced – in keeping with their mission is to democratize coffee

Sustainable Single Serve

Problem: The hottest trend in coffee making is single serve coffee makers. I’m not a fan of this method myself, but clearly the trend is here to stay. Waste is the biggest issue, with plastic coffee pods piling up in landfills, but the fact that your coffee is filtered through plastic isn’t great either.

Solution: The latest technology in single serve involves a coffee filter instead of a plastic cup. That means less plastic waste and much better tasting coffee!

Cameron's organic coffee podsExample: Cameron’s

The founder of Cameron’s was not big on coffee pods but because the demand was there, he found a way to make them more sustainable. Single serve coffee at Cameron’s uses biobased renewable materials like paper, and rings made from corn, beets and wood rather than plastic. During my visit, I got to try a cup of coffee brewed with a single serve. I was very skeptical because my experience with single serves has not been good. But I was pleasantly surprised – the coffee was strong and really delicious! So if single serve is your thing, be on the lookout for this new technology!

What is most important to you about the coffee you buy?

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(FYI – Cameron’s Coffee sponsored this post and provided free coffee samples and a factory tour, but everything written in this post is my own opinion.) 

Top photo credit: Jen via flickr cc

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