Drinking coffee is a part of many people's daily routine either at a coffee shop or at home. Coffee consumption is the highest it's ever been, in 2019 Starbucks alone sold over 1 billion cups of coffee globally. This means they sold an average of 2.7 million cups of coffee per day.
But when you enter the coffee shop and see the price tag on the menu, is that the real price of your coffee?
Espresso Coffee Beans
Coffee beans, the main ingredient, are grown on coffee farms in tropical environments such as Brazil, Asia and Africa. Building coffee farms causes soil degradation, loss of habitats for animals, insects and birds and major deforestation in these countries due to the unsustainable and unnatural growing methods used to meet the high demands. One of the biggest issues with the production of coffee is the huge amount of water it demands not only to grow but to consume. It was found that it takes 140 litres of water to produce one 125ml cup of coffee!
The drive you take to the coffee shop is not the only miles your coffee creates, due to being grown in tropical climates it has to be shipped to us and other countries by sea or air in order for us to get our daily fix. These journeys use lots of fuel resulting in another one of the biggest causes of climate change, pollution.
The majority of coffee drinkers have milk with their coffee, no matter your preference of soy, almond, coconut or cows milk they all have an environmental impact. The least sustainable milk is cow's milk, the production of milk and dairy is one of the biggest greenhouse gas contributors in the world. According to the international dairy journal of 2013, for every kilogram of milk produced the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere was 1.23 kilograms. Not only this but dairy milk production can cause pollution in water due to chemicals leaking from vats into waterways nearby, deforestation caused by land being cleared to make room for the cattle. The intensive farming methods used in milk production can have a negative effect on the animal's health and welfare.
Sweeteners and Flavours
Every season, holiday, celebration or just on a random day of the week. Coffee companies are always bringing out new flavours and toppings to spice up our coffee and keep us interested. Sugar is the biggest sweetener ingredient for all varieties of coffee and growing sugarcane has a huge impact on biodiversity loss. In 2004, a report by WWF found that sugar may be responsible for more biodiversity loss than any other crop. Other flavourings and syrups for coffee not only contain sugar but also contain other ingredients such as chocolate, vanilla or nuts. Chocolate for example, comes from cocoa beans which are grown in tropical climates like West Africa and is causing a huge amount of deforestation due to the amount of land needed and the amount of chocolate that is being produced. Not only this but to make chocolate from cocoa beans requires milk and sugar, which as we know also greatly impacts the environment and climate change.
You might think that your paper coffee cup is being recycled and isn't harming the environment, however due to the polyethylene coating of coffee cups it requires a specialised process to actually be recycled and there are a limited number of plants that have the facilities to do it. This means that out of the 2.5 billion cups are thrown away each year in the UK, only 150 million are actually recycled! For example, the coffee company Starbucks has been using paper cups made with 10 percent recycled content since 2006.
Also, the majority of takeaway coffee cups have a plastic lid and iced coffee's come in completely plastic cups, the production of plastic is one of the biggest contributors to all types of pollution. When making plastic huge amounts of greenhouse gases and toxins are released into the environment causing air pollution, then once its made it can be difficult to dispose of often ending up in nature and water systems due to going to a landfill or being thrown away causing damage to nature, soil and causing water pollution. And finally, depending on the plastic used, it take can take decades to break down. A takeaway coffee cup can take up to 30 years to break down!
The price tag is not the only price we are paying...