Is coffee eco friendly?

5 Jun 2023
3 min read
Coffee cup on lap

We drink over 2 billion cups of it every day and it’s the most popular drink in the world, with consumption set to double by 2050. But have you ever stopped to wonder just how green your coffee is?

The UK’s coffee industry employs around 210,000 people and contributes a whopping £9.1 billion to the economy so while our obsession with coffee is good for the country’s coffers, making some smart and informed choices about where you buy and what you buy can help the globe.

Which prep is best?

What do you need to know to make green coffee choices?

There are 15 stages between planting coffee seeds and us enjoying our morning pick me up including picking, sorting, fermenting, drying and grinding. But what do you need to know to make green coffee choices and which preparation is the most environmentally friendly?

It turns out filter coffee – one of the most popular choices – is the worst in preparation when it comes to energy costs to make it and yield – you need a lot more ground than you do for other courses of preparation, whereas French press or cafétiere is considered the best preparation in terms of energy consumption.

In the supermarket when you’re buying coffee, look for certifications on your beans or ground coffee from organisations like the Rainforest Alliance. Fair Trade badges and organic coffee are good choices too.

Pods need to be recycled

Aluminium coffee pod

If you have a coffee machine – like a lot of us do – not all the pods are recyclable, so make sure you look for one that is. Better still, opt for a bean to cup machine that doesn’t use a pod or capsule at all. They’re not cheap but globally, coffee capsules make up about 576,000 metric tonnes of waste.

Just last year a Swiss retailer produced a coffee making system that used coffee balls instead of pods, the coffee is wrapped in a thin flavourless seaweed that’s fully compostable.

We all know about reusable cups rather than single use and there are some cafes now that don’t use disposable cups at all, if you don’t bring your own, you can’t have a take away coffee. Another big carbon saving is to swap a latte for a flat white as they use a lot less milk (and calories) and also save you some money.

Use your grinds

Coffee grounds used for growing plants

If you’re prepping at home, you can also use leftover coffee grinds as fertiliser for your garden or veg patch and they’re great at keeping slugs and snails away.

In terms of energy use for home made coffee, don’t boil more water than you need, and you can even have a go at cold press coffee – it’ll need to steep overnight in the French press before you plunge but cold press coffee is growing in popularity among coffee aficionados.

No one’s suggesting swapping a must have morning ritual but a few changes and better choices can go a long way.


The information in this article was correct at the time of writing and is provided for guidance only. Please see the full disclaimer in our terms and conditions.

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