Coffee’s Harmful Effects on the Environment

By Sydney Janssen

It is no surprise that college students are among those who incorporate coffee into their daily routines. Its great taste and caffeine content, as well as the various combinations that can be made from it, make it an extremely popular commodity on college campuses and elsewhere. At Colorado College, many of the students know and love Colorado Coffee and Susie B’s.

Photo by Bibi Powers

While most people drink coffee, not many are aware of its harmful effects on the environment. To emphasize just how large the coffee industry is, according to a 2016 Energy Makeovers article, 125 million people globally rely on the coffee industry for employment, and the demand for coffee beans is continuously growing. 

Coffee was originally grown in tropical and subtropical areas, which contain shady areas for many animals to live. As the coffee economy has grown, the demand for coffee plantations has also increased. Other trees have been removed to allow more coffee to be grown, which has destroyed these habitats for many indigenous animals and insects, which also previously fertilized the soil. Now, chemical fertilizers are substituted, and the deforestation has resulted in increased erosion and worsening soil quality.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, 37 of the 50 countries with the highest deforestation rates produce coffee. The processing plants also produce waste that ends up in nearby rivers, which then can cause animals and plants in those rivers to die. This also does not even consider the many disposable coffee cups that are used, which are also harmful to the environment.

Climate change is also negatively impacting the growth and quality of coffee beans, and according to the National Academy of Sciences, about half of the land that is currently used to produce coffee could be unproductive by 2050, with 88% of the land becoming unproductive in Latin America.

While many people clearly depend on caffeine to get them through the day, coffee is not the only option. A popular alternative that gets the job done is matcha tea, which is made up of crushed green tea leaves, which offers caffeine. Additionally, it contains L-theanine, which is an amino that “relaxes the mind without drowsiness,” according to Bustle. This combination can lead to a more relaxed energy that doesn’t make people feel jittery, like caffeine alone can.

Another surprising alternative is a smoothie. Smoothies generally have many natural ingredients that can improve energy and offer important nutrients. Smoothies can also contain many servings of fruits and vegetables, which can otherwise be a challenge to consume enough of during the day. Smoothies with fruits and vegetables can not only provide energy in the place of coffee but offer many other health benefits.

Drinking apple cider vinegar is another surprising way you can boost your energy. Not only this, but according to Bustle it has also been shown to help with insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels.

While it may be a challenge for the majority of people to switch away from coffee, there are other alternatives that people can try as a replacement with fewer environmental downsides. While coffee is hard not to love, its current modes of production and consumption have a very harmful effect on the earth. 

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