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A Guide to Sustainable Coffee Drinking

Your cup of coffee, while delicious, sometimes comes with environmental and social costs. Here are ways to ensure your dose of caffeine is eco-friendly.  

A cup of coffee sits on a white table.

Source of Coffee Beans 

At least 170 liters of water is needed to produce enough coffee beans to fill a single cup of coffee. Finding coffee from ethical and sustainable sources is paramount to achieving sustainable coffee drinking. But identifying whether coffee is grown in a sustainable environment can be challenging. 

Major coffee brands can claim they come from sustainable sources when in reality they don’t. The Sustainable Coffee Challenge is a great educational resource we recommend outlining international standards for sustainable ethics. You can also ask your local coffee barista where they source their coffee, it’s the most direct way to glean your coffee’s sustainability information. 

Method of Brewing 

If you are a Keurig user, avoid single-serve coffee pod capsules, known as K-cups. K-cups can contribute to a lot of plastic waste, instead use the fully recyclable and reusable pods to help minimize plastic pollution. Compostable K-cups are also worth looking into. For those using the pour-over method, compostable and biodegradable coffee filters reducing the need to toss coffee grains into the trash bin. You can also use reusable cotton filters to reduce waste.  

What is the best method of coffee brewing that leaves the smallest footprint? We recommend an old-fashioned pour-over, or a stovetop espresso maker especially if you own an electric stove. 

Coffee and Waste 

Don’t throw your coffee grinds in the trash! Coffee is a great ingredient for compost and there are plenty of coffee filters and pods that are compostable as well.  

For those on the run, make sure you recycle your to-go cup, or better yet, bring your own reusable mug!