Thursday, January 14, 2010

Day 12: Morning Caffeine

After Tony's posting yesterday about his afternoon caffeine fix, I thought I'd offer a counterpoint that represented a more planet-friendly approach. I drink coffee in the morning, sometimes at other times during the day. How can I "green" this?

Now, to begin with, drinking coffee is not particularly planet-friendly, I admit it. But, let's say that I wanted to make my coffee consumption as (planet-)green as possible, while perhaps slowly cutting down consumption (man, that would be easier if it weren't so cold). Ideally I'd like to not drink coffee at all, but as vices go, I feel this is pretty minor, and giving it up entirely has eluded me so far.

Ok, so here are the guidelines I have been following.

1. No decaf. The carbon cost of shipping coffee around the world to get it decaffeinated is too high on a product that is already questionable from an environmental standpoint. (If I don't want caffeine anyway, I'd probably drink herbal tea.)

2. Buy shade-grown, organic, bird-friendly, and fair trade, preferably from countries where these words actually mean something, and where there are not water/irrigation or labor problems. A tall order. (Maybe even a Venti. Ba-dum ching.) Gotta tell you though, at our local grocery store, this combination is pretty tough to find.

(I have not looked into the cost of shipping beans that meet all these criteria to our home and grinding them ourselves. Not sure what the carbon impact would be or how practical this would be.)

3. Use organic or local half-and-half. This costs $3.99 for a quart at Lowe's Foods. Sometimes if you buy 2 you can get a coupon for $1 off.

4. Use sugar sparingly. I'm down to 1 tsp. The half-and-half is better than the sugar anyway.

5. When I go out for coffee, it should be for social purposes, not convenience, and I should bring my own mug. (Right now I'm partial to a 20 oz. Caribou mug I bought in 1999. Barnes and Noble gives a $0.10 discount.) If I fail to bring my own mug, I will ask to use a store mug. Failing that, or not given enough time to drink my coffee properly with an in-store mug (ahem, Tony drinks his about 10 times faster than I do) I get a to-go cup but use and re-use my own cardboard sleeve. (I keep two sleeves in a pocket in my purse.)

I've had overall good experiences with baristas when going out and not using the paper cup, except for once at a Starbucks when we asked for the in-store mugs and she still used a paper cup to make the drink, then poured it into the mugs, then threw out the paper cup. She said it was easier to make that way. Sigh.

#2 and #3 on this list are not cheap. #5, #4 and #1 save money, but not a lot. The cost of organic half and half and fancy fair trade coffee outweighs these other savings, so I'll have to put my coffee habit in the "planet" column and not really score it as a win-win. Now, if I gave up coffee entirely, THAT would be a win-win. Double sigh.

so far...

Pocket: 3, Planet: 2, Win-Win: 7

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