Everyday Enviro with Elise: reducing the carbon footprint of coffee

Everyday Enviro with Elise: reducing the carbon footprint of coffee

By Elise Catterall  April 23rd, 2024

Elise discusses the darker side of coffee, one of the world’s most popular drinks, when it comes to environmental impact.


From cultivation to brewing, each stage of the coffee life cycle can contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in Australia. The good news is there are several ways to enjoy your morning cuppa more sustainably. Here are some ways to the process of getting coffee from source through to your morning mug of joe impacts the environment:  

 Here are several ways to reduce the environmental impact of your coffee habit: 

  • Choose Fairtrade and shade-grown coffee: Fairtrade certification ensures that coffee farmers are paid a fair price for their beans. Shade-grown coffee refers to beans grown under the cover of trees. This method not only provides habitat for birds and other wildlife but also helps to regulate temperature and reduce water use. Shade-grown coffee plants also tend to produce higher quality beans.   

  • Don’t go cheap.  When consumers pay extra for environmentally friendly coffee cultivation techniques, which are often more expensive, it ensures these techniques remain viable for growers.    

  • Buy local coffee: Look for coffee beans that are roasted locally. This will help to reduce the carbon footprint associated with transportation. Plus, you'll be supporting your local businesses!    

  • Brew Smarter: How you brew your coffee can also make a difference. Avoid single-serve coffee makers and opt for a French press or drip coffee maker. These brewing methods typically use less energy than single-serve machines. For that reason, soluble instant coffee can also be a better environmental choice.  

  • Brew large batches: Brewing a large pot of coffee is more energy-efficient than brewing multiple small cups throughout the day. In the same vein, whenever possible, buy coffee beans in bulk to reduce packaging waste.   

  • Make your own cold brew: Cold brew coffee is less acidic than hot coffee and requires less energy to make. Simply steep coarse coffee grounds in cold water for several hours.   

  • Forgo the extras like milk and sugar or use lower-carbon footprint alternatives to dairy like plant-based milk.   

  • Dispose well. Composting your coffee grounds helps to reduce food waste, which can cause significant emissions in landfill where organic matter produces methane. Coffee grounds can be used as a compost amendment or to deter pests in your garden. 

By making small changes to your coffee routine, you can significantly reduce the environmental impact of your daily cup. 

Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.


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Elise Catterall

Elise is a writer, photographer, and naturopath with a passion for nature. She completed a Master of Public Health in 2017 through the University of Sydney. Her photographic work focuses on flowers and plants as a way of celebrating nature. She has been writing for Planet Ark since 2017, sharing positive environment stories, personal environmental experiences and perspectives.

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