Being Green Coffee or Tea Drinker

Coffee is the world’s most commonly traded commodity after crude oil, and tea is the world’s most consumed beverage after water. So if tea and coffee are up there with oil and water on the world stage, we know there must be a lot at stake here. One thing that’s definitely at stake is our desire to get a tasty, healthy, perky, fairly-traded, and eco-friendly brew to sip. Here’s a quick spin through some of the finer points of green coffee and tea connoisseurship.

Here are the Tips

1. The local brew

Seek out the coffee and tea that have traveled the least distance to reach you and also aim at supporting local, independent farms, cafés, and roasters.

2. Mug shots

Go ahead, find that perfect mug and make the investment. Not only is a reusable mug more pleasurable to sip out of than a paper cup, but it will replace an untold number of disposable cups, plastic sippy tops, “java jackets,” and other disposable paraphernalia. Make a quick tally of how many disposable coffee or tea cups you use in a month…yeah, it’s probably a lot.

3. Organic

Coffee and tea that bear organic certification are more eco-friendly because they are grown and processed without toxic chemicals, are cultivated and harvested in ways that protect sensitive ecosystems, and spare workers from exposure to harmful pesticides and herbicides. Shade grown coffee is another important category that preserves habitats for migratory birds on coffee farms, also letting beans mature more slowly and creating richer flavors.

4. Fair Trade

Not only does certified fair trade coffee and tea help ensure living wages and safe working conditions for farmers, but TransFair and Rainforest Alliance both include rigorous environmental standards in their certification criteria.

5. Home brew

The local café is great. It’s got your friends, good food, free wireless. But if you think you can be greener in your own kitchen, give it a try. When you do it at home you know where the beans and leaves are coming from and also where they go when they’re spent. Plus, you can’t forget your mug, you can choose organic milk, and never toss out another paper sugar packet. Try a bit of quick math on the cost savings of making your morning cup-o-joe at home.

6. Loosen up

Tea bags and coffee filters can be useful but are mostly unnecessary. Great coffee can be made at home with a reusable filter or a stovetop espresso maker. A quality tea infuser can last a lifetime and replace an untold number of (questionably compostable) tea bags. If you do use filters and bags, look for biodegradable and unbleached ones.

7. Milk and sugar

Most people put one thing or another in their hot beverage of choice. Don’t foul up your organic, fair trade, bird friendly, solar roasted brew with chemical and hormone-laden milk and sugar from a little paper packet. If you don’t do the cow thing, look for organic rice, soy, or almond milk to yin up your yang.

8. "Press" the issue

If the local coffee shop you love doesn’t carry coffee and tea that meet your standards, start asking politely. Starbucks has a universal policy under which they will brew a French press of fair trade coffee for anyone who asks. Take the Starbucks Challenge and see if your barista knows what Starbucks has committed to.

9. Compost the roast

Tea leaves and especially coffee grounds make outstanding compost. Coffee’s high nitrogen content has made it a fertilizer of choice since days of yore. Composting leaves and grounds helps keep organic waste out of landfills, makes great soil, and keeps waste baskets dry. If you don’t have a heap to toss it on, just spread coffee grounds on the top of your plants’ soil.

10. Gift the good stuff

Organic coffee and tea make superb gifts for friends and coworkers, as well as effective peace offerings for estranged family members and ex-lovers. It’s also a great way to get people appreciating the many benefits of a “greener” coffee or tea habit.


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