"Our culture runs on coffee and gasoline, the first often tasting like the second."
— Edward Abbey, American writer and environmentalist
Top five ways to green your coffee
1) Use your buying power like a vote for better environmental and social practices. The fact is, an average bag of USDA organic, fair trade, Rainforest Alliance or bird friendly coffee only costs a few dollars more for the same amount of beans in any other bag. Newman's Own, easily found in most grocery stores, costs about $8 for a 10-ounce bag of whole beans, and it's both USDA organic and fair trade certified. A bag of Starbucks beans that has no certifications costs $9.29. The gourmet options at specialty retailers hover between $12 and $13, but they also go on sale frequently and because of their responsible growing practices tend to offer a better taste profile than their mass-produced, cheaper cousins.
2) Keep it hot without the hot plate. Invest in a good thermal carafe for your home or office to keep the coffee hot for hours without burning electricity while getting burned on a hot plate. The expense is minimal — even at its full Amazon.com price, the Cadillac of vacuum-sealed thermal mugs, Nissan Stainless, is only $28, but the site typically has it on sale, and for bargain-hunters, it's readily found at discount stores such as TJ Maxx and Marshalls.
3) Grind it shorter, not longer. Your taste buds will thank you if you limit your bean grinding to about 15 seconds for a standard drip coffee maker and even shorter if you love a French press. Any longer and the grinder can heat up the beans and hurt their flavor. There are few things more acerbic than overground coffee.
4) Certification doesn't stop with coffee. That tea, yerba maté or cup of cocoa you're craving can come with all the same certifications as a cup of coffee and it's just as important to their growing regions. Whether you want to support chemical-free farming, fair labor practices or holistic approaches to both, look at labels and buy accordingly.
5) Buy smart. Just because something promises a pick-me-up without caffeine doesn't mean that its chemical qualities bear no relationship to it. If you're caffeine-sensitive, it's probably best to stay away from most things boasting an energy boost. Also know your own tastes before you buy any tea or tealike beverage. If you prefer fruit to vegetables, you'll probably like a black tea more than a green tea or yerba maté. Knowing your own tastes before you buy prevents you from having to throw a box of teabags out later.
How do you do it?
Are you a gardener who knows a rose not grown with a dose of coffee grounds will never smell as sweet? Or perhaps you're a lifelong fan of thermal containers that have lasted your whole life. You might even be one of the bargain hunters who knows just where to find the best-priced USDA organic, fair trade, Rainforest Alliance or bird friendly certified coffees. Help others green their caffeine routines by providing us with your favorite tips in the comment box below.
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