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How Sustainable is Your Cup of Coffee?

We look at the steps being taken to make sure coffee in Ireland is sustainable.

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There’s nothing better than a cup of coffee, but it’s important to think about its sustainability. Coffee growing is an intensive process that can have serious effects on the land and environment, not to mention the workers who produce the coffee. Here, we take a closer look at sustainable coffee.

Fairtrade coffee is the best place to start when thinking about sustainable coffee. Following the collapse of the world coffee trade in the 1980s, Mexican coffee farmers were in dire straits, with no money coming in. The Fairtrade Foundation was then set up to ensure that the 125 million people around the world that depend on coffee for their livelihoods are always paid at least the Fairtrade Minimum Price for their coffee.

This concept of a minimum price is of key importance to ensuring coffee is produced sustainably: it’s an intense process that has a significant impact on the environment. By paying farmers more, they can afford to invest more into the business, utilising farming methods that don’t damage the environment. It’s an interesting loop that helps to ensure the sustainability of the coffee we drink every day.

While you’ll now struggle to find coffee that doesn’t carry an accreditation, such as organic or fairtrade, it seems that a lot of the general public are purchasing coffee machines for their homes that utilise coffee pods, most of which are not recyclable. These non-recyclable pods, alongside tonnes of coffee cups, go into landfill every day, creating a massive environmental issue. However, there has been a movement towards more environmentally-friendly coffee in the past couple of years. Coffee giant Nespresso now offers a recycling service for all of its pods, 25% of which it says are recycled; the company is striving to increase this number to 100% over the coming years. Nespresso uses aluminium for their coffee capsules which is infinitely recyclable. Not only that, but Nespresso offers customers a variety of convenient ways to recycle their capsules, from home collection to Parcel Motel collection to drop off recycling points in Nespresso boutiques.

Keep cups and reusable travel mugs have become massively popular over the past couple of years too, as the general public tries to be more environmentally-conscious with its purchasing power. The Dublin coffee scene has fully embraced this more sustainable way of serving coffee: the majority of retailers offer a discount on coffee served in reusable cups. Compostable and recyclable cups have become the norm in many coffee outlets in the city as a way to be more sustainable, however, there are no publicly accessible compost bins on the streets of Dublin, meaning that many of these compostable cups end up in landfill anyway.

With sustainability being such a buzzword at the minute, it’s only right that Dublin’s coffee roasters are leaning into this new, environmentally important trend. One such roaster is Gary Grant of Imbibe Coffee Roasters, which is based in Dublin 8.

When Gary moved from financial services to the coffee world about a decade ago, he decided that his business would be as ethical and sustainable as possible. Now, the majority of the coffee that Gary and his team roast is organic. He recently purchased an entire crop of coffee produced by an all-female co-op based in Peru, which is part of the Café Femenino programme which aims to empower female coffee growers.

Imbibe has even gone one step further to aid Dublin’s sustainability: Gary supplies retailers with tins of coffee that are collected once empty, brought back to the roastery and reused, eliminating the need for single use coffee containers. If only the rest of Dublin would follow suit!

Gary from Imbibe Coffee
Gary from Imbibe Coffee
What steps have you taken to ensure your coffee is sustainable? Let us know in the comments below.