ETX Daily Up
Wire Service
2 minute read
5 Oct 2021
10:01 am

Popularity of coffee comes with a heavy environmental footprint

ETX Daily Up

Every day, between 1 and 2 billion cups of coffee are drunk around the world.

Coffee. Picture: iStock

Every first of October, one of the world’s most popular beverages is celebrated with International Coffee Day. Many of us would find it hard to do without this universal drink, which is as tasty as it is invigorating.

The only downside is its negative impact on the planet. This is a well-known problem that scientists and industry players have started to address to enable us to continue sipping our cup of Joe while also protecting the planet.

It’s our morning ally, our fuel for the day, not to mention a valuable vector for socializing… It is certainly no coincidence that coffee is one of the most consumed beverages in the world (along with water and tea). Every day, between 1 and 2 billion cups of coffee are drunk around the world.

It is also the second most traded commodity in the world, after oil.

But this popularity, unfortunately, comes with a heavy environmental footprint. According to research conducted by Germany’s Öko Institut, based on a variety of coffee grown in Tanzania, growing or farming is the stage that represents the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions generated by coffee production (59 grams of CO2 equivalent per cup of coffee, or 56% of the total carbon footprint).

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that, across all the stages of coffee production (from growing to the beverage we drink), water consumption works out at 140 litres for every cup!

ALSO READ: Eish, your morning cup of coffee may become scarce

Whether it’s an occasional indulgence or a daily habit, our taste for coffee also has a cost for the planet. And our consumption habits contribute to this environmental impact, with electricity-guzzling coffee machines, discarded single-use capsules (about 20 billion each year worldwide), etc. 

Now, British researchers from Cardiff University have developed Omni, an online tool to help us understand the environmental impact of our coffee consumption. Conceived and designed by scientist Lucy Zaborowska, this online calculator is designed for everyone to use and provides accurate estimates of the carbon footprint of the coffee we’re drinking, as well as the amount of water needed to produce that coffee (depending on the variety).

The site also provides tips on how to reduce the carbon footprint of our coffee consumption.
Brands are working on solutions too, with, for example, reusable capsules or washable filters. Buying coffee in bulk or using a French press coffee maker can also help limit waste.