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Coffee Conundrum: Ways to Make Coffee Culture More Sustainable

By Christina Belloso:

The popularization of our coffee culture has made accessibility of coffee more efficient than ever. From smaller, independent cafes popping up in the city, to the increase of at-home coffee systems being purchased, consumers are enjoying convenience without compromising on quality. Unfortunately, the environment suffers as the coffee supply chain is overrun with unsustainable procedures. Consumers, however, can start making small, greener changes by becoming aware of the differing levels of unsustainability within the coffee culture, from farm, to coffee shop, to breakfast table.

Something as simple as knowing how your coffee is grown can really make a difference in the quality and sustainability of the coffee you purchase. There are two ways that coffee is cultivated in tropical regions around the world: under the sun or in the shade. Coffea canephora, or robusta coffee, is grown in the sun, is bitter in taste, and is often used as filler coffee because it’s abundant and inexpensive to produce. Tropical forests continue to be cut down in order to make room for more profitable sun farms. More economical, sun coffee is slowly replacing shade coffee as a result of how much quicker it can yield coffee production. Coffea arabica is what you really should be looking for, as it’s higher in quality, richer and bolder in flavor, and grown under the protection of trees. Look for and support Arabica coffee in supermarkets, as it’s the more sustainable choice.

With the abundance of smaller, cozier cafes appearing in areas like La Jolla, North Park and Hillcrest, it’s easy to see why these places have become homes to the readers, writers and coffee connoisseurs of San Diego. The tranquil atmosphere, comfortable seating, soft classical music in the background, and that all too familiar aroma are enough to convince you to sit and stay for a while. We can make a greener choice by doing just that — sitting and staying for a while. Bring a book and stay to drink your coffee in reusable mugs and glassware in order to eliminate your use of disposable coffee cups, lids and sleeves. Some cafes also offer discounts when you bring your own reusable coffee mugs.

Brewing your own coffee at home just may be the most effortless and sustainable choice yet, especially if you’re someone who barely can stay awake as you’re making that cup of coffee. Focus on making single servings of coffee to produce less waste. The traditional brewing of a pot of coffee can result in extra coffee, filters, and grounds that ultimately end up being dumped into the trash. If you do go the coffee machine route, try to purchase a system with auto power down and energy conserving features. Instant coffee packets are a viable option as well. This was what got me through my freshman year of college, as I had only a measly microwave and mini-fridge. It was less expensive than owning a machine, and less wasteful, as I could make the perfect single cup without also producing leftover coffee.

With the start of each new day, there is nothing that remains more constant and dependable than that first cup of coffee. We can all do our part to be more mindful of where our coffee comes from and choose the more sustainable options for coffee preparation.

Christina Belloso is a recent college graduate from the University of San Diego. In her time at school, her studies in communication and psychology sparked some of her greatest passions including people, writing, mental health, and ways to live a life of meaning and connection. Some of her interests include dancing, yoga, meditation, and spending time with her three dogs. For two years, she worked as a blogger for her school’s health and wellness promotion center, learning and writing about topics that worked to raise awareness about mental health, reduce stigma, and motivate students to reach their personal and academic goals. Now she wants to focus on environmental sustainability and its effects on the passions she continues to advocate for. A happier earth will lead to happier people and the cycle will only continue.

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