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A Greener Cup of Joe

Help coffee farmers and the environment by buying fair trade-certified and organic coffee when you help yourself to a cup of coffee.

Who doesn't love a great cup of coffee, either first thing in the morning to get you in gear or sometime in the afternoon during what, in other countries, is prime siesta time? Newer medical studies have even shown that, when imbibed in moderation, coffee may offer benefits such as protecting against Parkinson's disease, type 2 diabetes and liver cancer.

You may be one of the many people who are very loyal to their particular kind of coffee, or to where they buy their coffee. A about where to get the best cup of coffee in Summit elicited strong opinions. So I am not going to preach to you about what kind of coffee you should get if you want to be really green, but I will let you know the kinds of things to think about if you are exploring your options.

Two things to consider are whether your coffee is fair trade-certified and whether it is organic. According to Grounds for Change, "fair trade certified coffee directly supports a better life for farming families in the developing world through fair prices, community development and environmental stewardship." Long-term contracts and business training result in sufficient income to allow farmers to obtain health care and education. Fair Trade farmers are also committed to sound environmental practices, including water conservation, proper waste disposal and using no harmful agrochemicals. For more information, visit the Fair Trade USA website.

Organic coffee is grown without the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, thereby assuring the health of the soil, the forest and the farmers. Although most chemicals used in growing non-organic coffee burn off during the roasting process (so there is little risk to you, the coffee drinker), the chemicals used do pose hazards to the growers and their families, as well as to the environment. Deforestation, soil erosion and habitat loss combined with chemicals leave behind a polluted environment. Organic growing under a canopy of trees reduces the need for harmful chemicals and irrigation, conserving water because the canopy provides organic mulch and shade, and keeping pests under control with beneficial wildlife.

If you make your own coffee at home, look for the terms  "fair trade-certified" and "organic" on the labels of your favorite brands. Green Mountain Coffee, for example, offers fair trade-certified organic coffee. If you buy your java at a local spot, you should know that Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts have some fair trade organic options. Make it a habit to ask about available options. Even if your favorite coffee providers do not currently carry green choices, just asking might encourage them to look into it.

Using a non-disposable or paper coffee cup is another easy way to do the right thing. If coffee from your favorite spot is normally served in Styrofoam cups, bring your own travel container to be filled instead or ask for your coffee in the cups used for cold drinks (usually coated paper). You can recycle any paper coffee cups you do use. If you are in downtown Summit, just look for the paper recycling bins around town.

Got one of the popular Keurig coffee makers? If you are reading this post, you probably already have a healthy regard for the environment and therefore cringe every time you use--then toss--one of the plastic K cups. There are a few reusable filters on the market, most of which have less than spectacular reviews, but the ekobrew reusable filter gets high marks. It is 100% BPA free, and easy to use since it can be dropped right into the coffee maker just like the throw-away K cups. Reduce trash, save money, and choose your own organic, fair trade-certified brew all with the convenience of the Keurig machines--perfect!

Be healthy, be happy. Enjoy your cup of coffee and, as ekobrew says, "love coffee. love the earth."

By Beth Lovejoy, on behalf of the Summit Environmental Commission

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Walter Korfmacher March 15, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Thanks for the article on Fair Trade coffee. If you want to order it online, go to SERRV.ORG The site for fair trade coffee is: serrv.org/category/coffee Enjoy!
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