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June 2009
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Greening Coffee Houses

There really is no denying that the world is addicted to coffee. In almost every major city world-wide you can find a Starbucks or some other trendy coffee house serving up the hot, golden-black liquid we all crave every morning. But they are also a major source of garbage

Sustainable Beans

The recent trend is to supply coffees that are from ‘sustainable’ coffee farms. In my first undergraduate degree I took a course called “ECO324: Sustainable Economic Development’ with Dr. Michael Hare at the University of Toronto. He was passionate about providing fair wages to the coffee farmers of the world, not exploiting the resource at the expense of future generations, and in general being a much more respectful world citizen. Now that I was informed I made a conscious effort to only by fair-trade coffee (Ten Thousand Villages has some of the best).

But buying fair-trade, sustainable coffee is only the first step.

Time to ‘Green’ our sugars, mixers, and milk/cream

As I purchase my coffee in my reusable cup I am now usually stunned by how much waste is produced from ‘dressing’ up my coffee. I prefer the brown, unrefined, cane sugar but none of the coffee houses have it in their refillable, glass sugar jars. Instead I am forced to use the bleached, white sugar so I don’t produce waste from those little packets. And every time I add my sugar and milk I tell myself I’m going to start carrying a spoon with me so I don’t have to use a plastic or wooden stir stick.

We are continuing to ‘green’ but as you can see we still are a far ways off from being sustainable.

Suggestions to coffee houses

  1. Do away with the little sugar packets – like the metal containers for milk and cream, have glass jars for sugar (white and brown) and sweetener
  2. Provide spoons – many of the coffee shops have dishwashers for their stay-in cups, add spoons to the mix and decrease the need for wooden stir sticks. Or find metal stir sticks that can be washed and reused.
  3. Paper bags – instead of the waxed, non-recyclable ones just have simple paper bags. Or as it is the same with a reusable coffee cup offer customers a discount for bringing their own container