Just a Cup of Coffee?

Written by Lori Thiessen

Coffee is ubiquitous these days. On every street corner there is a café. In the grocery stores, there are rows upon rows of roasted coffee beans to be taken home and enjoyed. But there is a price to pay for our favourite and most accessible addiction.

The environmental toll that coffee takes from cultivation, to production, to consumption and post consumption is staggering, considering the amounts of coffee being demanded on the markets these days.

Dean Cycon wrote an interesting piece “Will Coffee Be a Casualty of Climate Change?” in which he discusses how global warming will eventually make coffee farming impossible in countries whose economies depend heavily on revenue generated from this crop like Columbia.

It seems highly ironic to me that the millions of coffee cups we throw away each year and leave to rot in landfills contributes to global warming which will eventually destroy most coffee growing regions. Mother Nature does have a sense of humour.

Beyond the crisis of farming in a time of global warming is the post-consumer burden on the environment created by coffee cups. In Toronto, city planners want to drastically reduce the amount of garbage heading to the landfill by 2010. One of their targets is coffee cups. Moira Welsh reports in the October 6th edition of the Toronto Star (“Coffee cup revolution urged”) that coffee companies will be required to have a self-managed disposal program in place in the near future.

Clarissa Morawski, a waste expert, suggests that coffee cups could have a deposit put on them like pop bottles. It would certainly encourage people to bring them back if it meant getting some money back. Or another scheme would be for coffee companies to offer a discount for people who bring in their own mugs.

So what’s the answer? Give up your daily cup or cups of coffee? My dad always advised moderation in everything, and I think it’s good advice. So I would suggest cutting down on the amount of coffee you drink, bring your own mug to the coffee shop, buy fair trade and perhaps buy your friends a travel mug for them to take with them to their cafes.

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Q: Do you bring your own mug with you to the coffee shop? If not, why not?

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll save your seat until next time.

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