Coffee with a cause

Every morning before work, I buy coffee from a little shop down the street. I believe supporting my local cafe is greener than supporting a big corporate chain like Starbucks, but someone told me it’s still better to brew your own every morning. What do you think?

Buying local won’t automatically green your lifestyle. You have to consider what “local” means on a case-by-case basis.

Thinking about who sells the coffee is a start. But thinking about who grew the beans in the first place (hint: it’s rarely the people who sold it to you) is important. Two of the biggest buzzwords in the “green” coffee argument are “fair trade,” which secures a living wage and safe working conditions for the workers on the coffee farm. Look for Transfair (the audit group behind the Fair Trade Certified logo) or Rainforest Alliance certification, both of which ensure environmental sustainability and human rights.

“Organic” and “shade-grown” are other important buzzwords. The former ensures the beans were grown free of harmful pesticides and toxins. The latter preserves a healthy habitat for birds.

Every good treehugger should own a washable, reusable coffee thermos. Relying on paper or Styrofoam coffee cups, plastic lids and cardboard cup “jackets” is wasteful, particularly if you buy coffee every day. You can’t recycle Styrofoam in Sacramento; paper coffee cups often have an inner lining that doesn’t break down in landfills; plastic lids don’t either, and cardboard coffee cup jackets are a complete waste of a natural resource because if you had a sturdy, reusable mug, you wouldn’t need that cardboard jacket in the first place.

The reason why people advocate brewing your own coffee is that it allows you more control over the source of the beans. You can choose to buy beans that traveled the least distance to your mug, that come from a fair-trade, organic source and that are most likely cheaper than buying a cup’s worth from a pricy local cafe every day. And when the brewing is all said and done, compost your coffee grinds. Everybody wins.