3 Cups: Addiction

April 26, 2010

3 Cups is a seven part series. This is part 1

I am addicted.

I have been for years. First thing in the morning before I really do anything else I need to get my first hit. By the time I am to work each day I have already done two and most days I wind up getting my fix five or six times. I’m not messing around with drugs like cocaine or heroin. I am totally addicted to caffeine and my delivery system of choice is coffee.

For those of you who don’t know caffeine is a gateway drug. It is highly addictive, but easily managed without legal or significant personal consequences (although if you have seen me without coffee you might not agree). The real problem with caffeine, coffee in particular is that it leads to a heavy addiction to petroleum.

Petroleum? Oil? I am sure you are asking “how are coffee and oil connected?’.

Our global coffee addiction reinforces and supports our global addiction to petroleum. Coffee is one of the largest commodity crops in the world. It is distributed globally and the process from harvest to cup is energy intensive requiring significant transportation, processing (roasting and grinding) packaging, and waste. The volumes of coffee beans, cups, machines and water used are immense and each one requires some amount of petroleum to be successful in today’s market.

Since I know I am addicted, and I am not about to go cold turkey off caffeine I figured I should take the next step. Instead of giving up coffee all together I am going to evaluate the ways I drink coffee to figure out if one way is more sustainable than another and what makes it more sustainable.

Typically I have coffee three ways; at home, on my way to work and driving. At home I use a Keurig machine to make perfect single cups, which I drink out of a ceramic mug. On my way to work I stop, usually at Starbucks after I get off the subway for a tall cup of drip or a latte in a Starbucks paper cup. If I am driving I use my trusty travel mug and stop at Quick Check for a fresh cup of joe. 

Looking at the three ways I typically have coffee you may have already made some assumptions about what is most sustainable, but instead of assuming let’s evaluate. Over the next 6 weeks I will pick apart each of the steps in getting my cup of coffee examining the bean, the water, the cup and the machine in order to understand how much water is used, miles are traveled and ultimately how much oil is in my cup of coffee.   

I hope you’ll come back on Mondays to see my latest update on my 3 cups of coffee.

3 Cups is a seven part series. This is part 1

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