Green Your Caffeine

Can you believe that every day, citizens of our planet down 2.5 billion cups of coffee? And that in America alone, more than 450 million servings of "joe" are quaffed daily?

By any measure that's a lot of caffeine. And as we are prone to do at SCGH, think about the stunning amounts of waste those Herculean numbers create. All those coffee filters and grounds, and all those paper cups, enough yearly to circle the globe 55 times when placed end to end!

Thus "Green Your Caffeine" is here, inspired by a story from our sister publication, Sierra Magazine. Thankfully, there are several things you can do to have less impact on the ecosystem while still getting your morning fix of java. Here they are:

* First, use a French coffee press instead of a traditional coffee pot. The coffee press does not require a paper filter, as it has a built in metal filtration system. It is very simple to use, you don't need to be trying out for Iron Chef to pour in the ground coffee and hot water, then slowly squeeze the plunger and presto! A cup of coffee that can taste even better than a filtered cup, minus the yucchy coffee grinds and stained paper filter -- which usually go directly to the landfill.

* Second, buy the right kinds of coffee. There are several labeling systems that tell you what you are buying is indeed environmentally friendly. "USDA Organic" assures you that no pesticides or chemicals were used to grow the beans. "Fair Trade Certified" means that the farmers and workers who grow the coffee were treated humanely and paid a fair day's wage in safe working conditions. "Shade Grown" means the coffee was grown according to Smithsonian Institution guidelines to protect migrating birds. And finally, "Rainforest Alliance Certified" is yet another assurance that the beans were grown according to proper "green" standards. Any or all of these labels are emblazoned on the packaging of the coffees you should be buying.

* Next, abandon paper cups in favor of reuseable mugs. These insulated mugs are usually made of aluminum, stainless steel, ceramic, rubber and in some cases BPA-free plastic. They are durable, keep your drink hot, and offer spill-proof tops. Bring your own if you are buying your morning brew from a coffee shop. In case you think they get stained and are hard to clean, not so. Simply soak them a bit with a little vinegar and lemon with water, they'll be good as new with a little bit of scrubbing. And you'll be saving many pounds of paper per year.

* I happen to like both coffee and tea. Nothing against the coffee industry, but tea is significantly better for our planet. Why? Because for every seven gallons of water needed in the manufacturing process for tea, coffee requires 36 gallons to yield the same amount of final product. That is an enormous water savings that can be recognized by crossing over to become a tea-only person.

* Use an electric heating pot or mug to heat your water, for either coffee or tea. This is more energy efficient than heating it on the stove. If you don't have one available, use the microwave it's second best for energy efficiency.

* Finally, compost your used coffee grounds, even with the filter if you don't have a coffee press. In a short time, you will have high quality fertilizer that can be used in your garden. How's that for closing the circle on "greening your caffeine"?