What coffee-drinking habit has the least positive environmental impact?
According to conventional wisdom, disposable coffee capsules made popular by Keurig and Nespresso should be mentioned. In fact, as noted by BBC News, the German city of Hamburg went so far as to forbid them from entering public buildings in 2016. According to a recent investigation by academics from the University of Quebec at Chicoutimi and published in The Conversation, drip coffee really has a far higher carbon footprint.
Our research shows that evaluations of goods like coffee based on a life cycle analysis, or the holistic vision, enable us to challenge our instinctive reasoning, which can occasionally be deceptive, the researchers stated.
To determine how four typical coffee preparation techniques affect the climate issue, researchers Luisiano Rodrigues Viana, Charles Marty, Jean-Francois Boucher, and Pierre-Luc Dessureault set out to perform calculations. They examined each method’s whole lifecycle, including how coffee beans are grown, how coffee capsules are disposed of, and how mugs are cleaned. Then, they used one of four techniques to determine the emissions linked to making 280 milliliters of coffee:
- Filter coffee
- Coffee capsules
- French press
- Instant coffee
They discovered that instant coffee was the most environmentally friendly way to make coffee, whereas traditional drip coffee was the least when customers followed the directions. However, capsule coffee takes the top spot if consumers consume 20% more coffee and heat twice as much water.
Why? Since producing coffee beans accounts for 40 to 80 percent of the emissions in a final cup of coffee, it is the most carbon-intensive step in the process. This is due to the fact that cultivating coffee now necessitates irrigation, fertilizers containing nitrous oxide, and pesticides. As a result, coffee conservation takes precedence over practically all other sustainability issues.
According to Rodrigues Viana, a doctorate candidate in environmental sciences, the best approach for consumers to lessen the carbon footprint of coffee consumption is to prevent wasting coffee and water.
Due to their intrinsic restriction on the quantity of coffee that can be made, capsules offer an advantage over filter coffee in this aspect. 11 to 13 grams of coffee are spared.
In Brazil, it takes 11 grams of Arabica coffee to produce 59 grams of CO2e (CO2 equivalent). According to the study’s authors, this amount is significantly larger than the 27 grams of CO2e released during the production of coffee capsules and disposal of the waste produced. These numbers highlight how crucial it is to prevent wasting and overusing coffee.
There are various aspects to consider while brewing coffee in the most sustainable way. One thing that matters is the source of your electricity. In Alberta, which generates a large portion of its electricity from fossil fuels, preparing and disposing of a coffee capsule is two grams more carbon intensive than washing a coffee cup in the dishwasher.
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Washing the cup seldom matters in Quebec due to a large amount of hydroelectric power. Keeping your coffee maker’s hot plate off and washing your cup in cold water will both help if you have a high-carbon grid.
It matters how much coffee you consume as well. The convenience of coffee capsules may lead people to consume twice as many cups of coffee, negating their beneficial effects.
The source of your coffee is one thing the study omits to address. Because more plants are being grown in the sun instead of the usual shade, coffee is one of the most carbon-intensive crops to grow.
The Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute noted that shade-grown coffee is still available and has a number of environmental advantages, including the ability to store carbon dioxide in the soil, provide habitat for birds and other animals, and increase the resistance of coffee cultivation to climate change. Look for Bird Friendly coffee that is shade grown and organic as a method to increase the sustainability of your coffee.
Read More: Landfill Fire Continues to Spread Toxic Air Pollution in Alabama for Over 50 Days.
The study serves as a helpful reminder that not all environmental impacts are as substantial as those that are most obvious to consumers.
According to a professor of sustainable systems at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability, as consumers, all that’s left is the waste that’s readily apparent to us, which frequently consists of containers and plastics.
The Washington Post was informed by Shelie Miller, who was not associated with the study. However, in comparison to the product itself, packaging generally has a much, much lesser influence.