Welcome to Sustainable Baby Steps

In my years of green living, I've found the simplest, easiest way to help others "go green" is through introducing them to the many uses of essential oils. Want to learn more about how I do that?

Get a Free Guide

Coffee Facts & Tips to Keep It Green

How to green your coffee habit #eco, via SustainableBabySteps.com

There are quite a few coffee facts that might have you rethinking and redoing that morning cup.


Over half of U.S. adults regularly consume coffee. That's about 107 million people in the U.S. alone and is not including approximately 25% of U.S. adults that consume coffee only on occasion.

Did you know that over 500 billion cups of coffee are served worldwide each year?

With it's 60 billion dollar global industry, it's easy to see how coffee consumption and it's subsequent waste can affect the environment.

But it's also one of the easiest areas in which we can improve. Below are several steps you can take to reduce your environmental impact in regards to these coffee facts.

The Most Important of Coffee Facts: Deforestation

Did you know that drinking the right kind of coffee could help save millions of trees?

Coffee farming is one of the biggest causes of deforestation, the clearing out of forests for farming or other purposes.

The trees are cut down, coffee is planted and within a few years the soil is depleted of nutrients from unsustainable practices and the farm is forced to move to a new location, further devastating the habitat of wildlife, plants and foods for humans and animals.

Consider these coffee facts: Of the 50 countries in the world with the highest deforestation rates from 1990 to 1995, 37 were coffee producers.

Directly, many may not see the affects of shade-grown coffee vs. conventionally grown coffee facts. However, the forests that are being lost provide shelter for thousands of migratory birds. We're talking our backyard friends, the ones who regale us with song and eat those pesky insects.

Also deforestation poses a serious risk to land-owners in this and other countries because of flood control. Forests help prevent excessive rain run-off and stave off millions of dollars in damage. These forests also contain 45% of the life on Earth, help keep greenhouses gases at healthy levels, recycling 20% of the world's carbon dioxide, provide food for humans and animals, and have provided us with countless health benefits. And that's just what we know about rainforests.

So, what can you do about it?

Shade Grown Coffee Facts

"Shade-grown" coffee is grown under a canopy of diverse species of shade trees, often on small farms using traditional techniques.

Among the many benefits of using shade-grown coffee production methods, in contrast to sun-grown coffee, are that it provides food and shelter for songbirds, as well as habitat for numerous other species of animals and plants. It also does not require conventional pesticides or other non-organic means of fertilization making it safer for the environment.

By supporting shade-grown coffee, we can show producers there is a demand for it and therefore increase its availability. For more info on shade grown coffee, click here.

Shade grown coffee can be found at health food stores, such as Trader Joe's or Whole Foods/Wild Oats and is often of much better quality and comparable price. I usually find it in whole bean instead of ground, so a coffee grinder may be necessary.

If you do not live near or shop at those stores, and your grocery store does not carry it, talk to the manager about requesting it. It may even be possible to inspire your manager to hold a promotion, educating people on the benefits of shade grown coffee, which would also promote the store and it's eco-friendly efforts.

The Obvious Next Step: Cut Back

Coffee has a huge impact on our health and the health of the environment, as this article shows. The obvious alternative is to cut back or quit drinking coffee altogether.

After all, unless it's local to you, it's not truly sustainable to consume it regularly, if at all. Choose tea, juice or water instead.

Coffee at Home

At-home coffee drinking is one of the easiest places to reduce your global footprint by steering clear of throw-away items. Here are some simple things to consider replacing:

  • Opt for a manual coffee grinder, instead of an electric one to save energy. We even found a vintage cast iron and wood grinder at an antique store that still works perfectly.
  • Instead of a coffee maker (that may contain BPA), choose a french press. It produces better tasting coffee and creates a peaceful, slower paced routine for your morning. This stainless steel french press would also be more durable than glass.
  • Replace the disposable coffee filters with reusable filters to save resources, but also cut down on your grocery budget. Choose an unbleached cotton filter or other reusable filter instead.
  • Use a spoon instead of a plastic stirrer.
  • Ditch those single serving sugars or creamers, which waste materials and money, and choose organic alternatives purchased in bulk (and maybe packaged in reusable single-serve containers for on-the-go).

Coffee On The Go

Whether a cup of java with friends or a quick stop on the way to work, there are ways to reduce your impact when buying your coffee from a major chain.

  • Bring your own cup! If your favorite coffee place only serves in disposable cup, this tip cannot be emphasized enough as each regular coffee drinker can save 23 lb of paper a year by doing so. Many coffee shops now encourage the use of a reusable mug versus a paper throw-away cup and even give a small discount. Simply leave a clean travel mug in your car for the next time you stop in.
  • Make sure your coffee travel mug is eco-friendly, long-lasting and BPA-free. Many stainless steel mugs may have a plastic insulated liner that contains BPA, so double-check any brand.
  • Refuse the napkins and keep a small hankie or hand towel in your vehicle for small or large spills.
  • If they refuse to serve in your mug or they offer a Styrofoam cup, protest it. You heard me. Walk out if you have to and send a nice email or make a quick phone call to the owner encouraging more eco-friendly service. Let them know until they do so, they will lose your business. Then call around to find a more deserving bistro.

Remember, you are not only saving trees by not using paper products, you are saving water, energy and reducing pollution by reducing the production of such products. You're also saving money with green living, which in my opinion should almost always go hand in hand.