If you're a coffee junkie you'll be happy to know that you can still drink your fill and keep it mostly eco-friendly by looking for green coffee. First you need to sort out all those terms that coffee companies use...
CONSIDER COFFEE TERMS:
Roasted - You can ignore this term. Pretty much ALL coffee is roasted the only difference is roasting time and the level of heat used to roast. However, it's not a sustainable term.
Fair Trade – This can be a more ethical term, but it's not necessarily green. Fair Trade coffee means coffee sold sans a trader so more money ends up in the pockets of the coffee company. Note though that Fair Trade does not necessarily mean fair wages for growers. If you want to support this plan, you need to look for organizational terms such as TransFair USA. If you want ethical coffee, look for an organizational term that does mean fair wages and working conditions for workers. Fair Trade is a financial term more so than a green one. Although many Fair Trade coffee companies do also use sustainable farming, shipping, or packaging methods, it's not a fast rule that all Fair Trade coffee is grown pesticide free.
Certified Organic - This is a term to look for on green coffee. Organic coffee has been certified by the USDA or the OCIA and has been grown free of pesticides or herbicides.
Sustainable – This is an iffy term (as a stand alone) at best. Sustainable should mean that the company uses green and ethical practices such as organic growing, Fair Trade, renewable energy, reduced fuel consumption, recyclable packaging, and so on. The problem is that "Sustainable" is not a certified term. Anyone can slap this term on a package of coffee. If you see this term the coffee could very well be green, but you need to check into the company's background. Green Coffee or Natural Coffee – Like "Sustainable" these are blanket terms that aren't certified and don't mean much unless followed up by another term.
Rainforest Alliance – You may see this label as "shade-grown" or "bird safe" and it's certified by the Rainforest Alliance. The Rainforest Alliance works with farmers and other businesses to ensure that their goods and services are environmentally and socially friendly.
Carbon Neutral - Shipping and roasting coffee can emit a significant amount of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. Coffee companies like Guilt Free Drinks are taking steps to limit their Carbon Footprint, and are working with companies like Sterling Biosciences to offset the remainder of their Carbon Footprint, making the coffee 'Carbon Neutral'.
CONSIDER THE BREWING METHOD:
Part of brewing greener coffee is using energy saving brewers. There's not technically a certified green coffee maker but you can visit The Department of Energy where you can estimate your coffee maker's energy consumption. If your maker is wasting loads of energy, you can eventually trade up to a more energy efficient machine.
You can also try a low energy French Press and unplug your machine when you're not actually brewing coffee - to keep prepared coffee warm put it in a thermos.
Reusable coffee filters are another way to green your brewing experience. These are not only cost effective but save paper. If you have to use paper filters try a recycled brand.
- Purchase coffee in eco-friendly packaging. For example is the packaging recyclable, printed with soy or water based ink, and so on.
- If you purchase whole beans you can take a reusable bag to the store for your beans. you should also consider packaging (is it recyclable, printed with soy inks, etc.).
- Compost your coffee grounds.
- Normally when looking for green products local is best but if you're a U.S. resident you're out of luck unless you live in Hawaii. Almost 100% of the coffee in the world comes from out of the states.
See some great eco-friendly coffee choices.