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Here's How To Make Your Coffee Habit Less Terrible For The Planet

Just in time for National Coffee Day!

There is literally nothing on this earth as satisfying as a cup of coffee. I'll brook no arguments; it's the only truth I have in this world.

But did you know that every time Americans run on Dunkin', stomp into a Starbucks or otherwise get the jitters with a cup of joe, it can impact the rest of the world -- "Butterfly Effect"-style?

From the harvesting of the beans to the cup we're drinking from, there's a decent chance that something shady or uncool may have happened on our coffee's journey. Considering the average American drinks 2.1 coffee drinks a day, according to a 2015 Zagat report on coffee trends in the U.S., even minor issues can add up.

But though there's plenty about the coffee biz' that'll make you SYDH (and we're not just talking about that Folgers commercial), there are also some easy steps we as consumers all can take to make the coffee industry as good as that first cup in the morning makes you feel.

  1. Make it fair.

    Coffee farmers are some of the world's most exploited workers. When a coffee is Fair Trade certified, it means there are minimum prices required to go to a farmer per pound of coffee sold. In theory, this helps make sure farmers have a fairer relationship with the people importing their product.

    Check out your favorite coffee haunts and see if their beans and coffee are Fair Trade certified. Knowing the people who made your coffee taste so good are actually getting paid a fair amount makes that first sip so much more satisfying.

  2. Don't underestimate the power of organic.

    Often when we see words like "organic" we assume it doesn't really mean anything. But when it comes to coffee, the USDA's Organic seal actually means that there were no synthetic pesticides used in the raising of the plants, and that they were grown far enough away from other (not organic) plants and their (also not organic) pesticides and fertilizers.

    So, check out those labels and don't be so-quick to side-eye the organics.

  3. Reconsider that coffee pot.

    Pod-style coffee brewers (like Keurig) have rapidly grown in popularity over the last few years -- so much so that, according to the creators of Kill the K-Cup campaign, as of 2014 there were enough coffee pods produced (that are not recyclable or biodegradable) to circle the Earth 10.5 times. Luckily, as these machines have become more common, many people have become wiser about how wasteful they really are -- including John Sylvan, the Keurig's inventor.

    "I feel bad sometimes that I ever did it," Sylvan told The Atlantic in an interview in March.

    What to do? The old-school coffee pot brewing method isn't all that hard, so break out your old coffee pot and show it some love. Or, check out one of these groovy reusable pod cups.

  4. Save the rainforests!

    The row-style farms we're used to seeing on coffee plantations can do a lot of ecological damage, with few benefits for coffee production. For example, they can lead to heavy deforestation and a reduction in soil quality over time.

    This is another reason it's important to look at those labels: Search for coffee that's Rainforest Alliance Certified. Keep in mind, this isn't a perfect certification, but it beats the lassiez faire alternatives.

  5. Say buh-bye to Styrofoam.

    Styrofoam cups make Mother Nature cry. Harder to kill than a cockroach or its distant cousin the plastic bag, styrofoam is not biodegradable, is not recyclable and its manufacturing process is a huge producer of hazardous waste. The chemicals that make styrofoam can also do some incredibly unsexy things to your body (especially if you microwave it! Yikes).

    Do the Earth a favor and get a cute mug or travel mug if you're on the go. Etsy has a bunch of cute ones if your dollar store doesn't have any that strike your fancy.

With all that in mind, go forth and have your 2.1 cups, guilt-free.

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