How Bad is a Mug of Coffee (Sept 2011)

Cup of CoffeeHow do you take your coffee? How should you take your coffee? The carbon cost of a mug of tea or coffee depends quite a bit on how we take it. If we boil only the water we need (the no-brainer way to cut the carbon) and we take tea or coffee the British way, with milk, then the milk accounts for a whopping two-thirds of the carbon footprint.

This is because cows are notoriously high-carbon. As they chew the cud they burp methane, a gas that is 23 times more global warming than carbon dioxide, and an important driver for deforestation is growing soya to feed them.

Here are the numbers:

21g *CO2e black tea or coffee, boiling only the water you need

53g  CO2e with milk, boiling only what you need

71g  CO2e with milk, boiling double the water you need

235g CO2e a large cappuccino

340g CO2e a large latte

For comparison, a banana is 80g CO2e and a return flight to Hong Kong is 3.4 tonnes CO2e. (or 3400,000 g)

Personally, I have not been able to wean myself onto black coffee or tea, but since seeing these numbers I have decided to drink Americanos with a dash of milk, rather than Cappuccinos, at coffee shops. The calorie difference is probably as beneficial as the carbon one, leaving the opportunity for something more carbon-friendly like a biscuit.

Meals were an important part of Jesus’s teaching. Food and drink were local and organic. Jesus did not waste food but gathered what was left at outdoor meals. Therefore in sharing food and drink we can do as Jesus did.

Ruth Jarman

*CO2e is short for carbon dioxide equivalent which is the overall contribution to global warming of carbon dioxide plus all the other global warming gases emitted such as nitrous oxide and methane.

Data and inspiration from “How Bad are Bananas? – the Carbon Footprint of Everything” by Mike Berners-Lee


Web Editor’s Note:-

This article does not deal with a host of other green issues that are implicated:-

  1. Has rainforest been chopped down to grow the coffee?
  2. (Arabica coffee is more environment friendly than Robusta (or at least less bad) because it is grown in shade. )
  3. Should we be putting much more effort into conserving the genetic diversity of wild coffee which grows in the Ethiopian Highlands – where deforestation is taking place.?
  4. Were the cows that produced our milk fed on soya or palm oil suppliments that come from chopped down rainforest plantations? (This is very likely)
  5. Does you cup of coffee support a charity such as Cool Earth that works to save rainforest?
  6. Have we done our bit to support charities that support land reform? (It’s the logging companies and rich individuals and multinationals that buy up land for logging and agriculture and mining, and force the peasants off their land to go out and live in the forest and chop down more forest… )

Isn’t life complex!!..

Just print out Ruth’s bit at the top. Enjoy your cuppa.

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Author: | Date: 15 November, 2011 | Category: Church Magazine | Comments: 0


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