Coffee Beans

French roast, mocha, cappuccino, macchiato … whatever the persuasion of Joe, Americans love their coffee a lot. Or, should it be a latte? As a nation, we consume 400 million cups of the beloved brew every day. The rise of café culture has significantly increased the demand for coffee, which has become the world’s second most tradable commodity, other than crude oil. However, our cravings for java can have environmental and economic implications.

Coffee farming and roasting can have major impacts on the environments and economies of the areas where beans are grown. Traditionally, coffee is cultivated under a canopy of shade. The shady environment improves the yield of the harvest and the flavor of the beans, and it creates habitat for indigenous wildlife, protects precious topsoil from erosion, improves air quality and provides natural pest and disease control for the plants. The demands for coffee, though, have led to the development of sun cultivation on coffee plantations. Sun cultivation usually requires the use of pesticides and fertilizers, and it contributes to deforestation. In Central America, for instance, 2.5 million acres of forest have been cleared for coffee farming. The degradation of the ecosystem has devastated the biodiversity and ravaged the environment in this and other coffee-growing regions throughout the world. Furthermore, coffee is produced primarily in developing countries. One hundred million people worldwide grow coffee, but farmers receive an average of only ten percent of its ultimate retail price. Since the price of coffee is subject to the vast and often volatile fluctuations of the commodities market, some farmers earn less than a living wage.

To support sustainable coffee farming and trade methods, choose Fair Trade Certified, Rainforest Alliance Certified, Smithsonian Migratory Bird Friendly Certified, Certified Organic and shade grown blends. These coffees contain fewer chemical pesticides and fertilizers, promote habitat preservation, encourage sustainable farming and fair labor practices, and support and invest in local economies. In addition, environmentally sound farming practices allow coffee beans to ripen at slower rates to create bolder, richer tastes.

Café culture also contributes to the waste stream. In recent years, single use pods have gained popularity among coffee consumers, but they have also created exorbitant amounts of trash. Between 2008 and 2013, sales of these pods increased by 78.6 percent in the United States. In 2013, consumers purchased $3 billion worth of coffee pods – enough pods to wrap around the Earth nearly 11 times and produce 966 million pounds of waste. Many of the plastics used in coffee pods cannot be recycled and may contain chemicals that can disperse when heated. Coffee with cream, sugar and bisphenol A is not appealing by most standards. Pods are also more expensive than traditional bags of coffee. A comprehensive analysis by the New York Times found that one pound of coffee packed in pods costs $50 whereas one pound of coffee packed in bags costs only $20. If you have a single cup coffee brewer that requires a pod, reduce waste by using a reusable pod such as Ekobrew or Eco-Fill instead of disposable pods and providing your own environmentally sound coffee. You can also substitute disposable filters for reusable filters in traditional coffee brewers.

To further reduce the waste associated with your coffee, use a reusable container instead of a disposable cup whenever possible. Some coffee shops will even offer a discount if you provide your own container. If you’ll be enjoying your coffee at the café, ask your barista if washable mugs are available for use while you are there. If you have to use a disposable cup, choose a compostable, biodegradable or recyclable option if one is available. Avoid Styrofoam, which is a waste and public health concern. Avoid the use of individually wrapped sugars and creamers, and enhance your coffee instead with additions from bulk packages.

Elements of your coffee break are recyclable, too. If you have enjoyed your coffee from a disposable cup, recycle the plastic lid with mixed plastics and the coffee collar with mixed paper. Coffee grounds can be reused as well. Coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen, so they can be added to your garden soil to create a natural fertilizer. A bowl of coffee grounds can be placed in your refrigerator to absorb odors, and they can be used in your beauty routine as a gentle exfoliant.

Coffee brewing consumes energy and water as well. Coffee brewers are not evaluated by the federal government for Energy Star certifications, so an energy efficient model may be indistinguishable. However, you can conserve energy by powering down your brewer when it is not in use. If you need hot coffee on hand, do not rely on the brewer’s warming plate, which consumes nearly 1,000 watts of electricity during one use. Instead, use a thermal carafe. Consider a French press, which requires less water and energy. If you prefer a single cup machine, choose a model with a flow-through water heater that warms water only when needed and powers down when coffee is not brewing for considerable energy savings.

Even though many producers and retailers are striving to provide ethically sourced and environmentally responsible coffees, reduce waste and even construct more resource-efficient facilities, consumers can also expand the market for green beans by demanding and implementing sustainable practices with every cup.


Green Beans


Fair Trade Certified

Rainforest Alliance

Smithsonian Migratory Bird Friendly Certification

USDA Organic Agriculture

Sources for Shade Grown Coffee from Earth Easy

International Coffee Organization: Developing a Sustainable Coffee Economy

Coffee and Sustainability: A Complex Cup

How to Go Green Guide: Coffee and Tea from TreeHugger



The Environmental Working Group has recently released this year’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen.

Based on tests of 48 popular produce varieties, the Dirty Dozen is a list of the 12 fruits and vegetables that contain the greatest concentrations of pesticides. Consumers should, if possible, purchase the organic versions of these fruits and vegetables to reduce their exposure to harmful chemicals. The Clean Fifteen is a list of 15 fruits and vegetables that contain the most insignificant concentrations of pesticides.


  1. Apples
  2. Strawberries
  3. Grapes
  4. Celery
  5. Peaches
  6. Spinach
  7. Sweet bell peppers
  8. Imported nectarines
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Cherry tomatoes
  11. Imported snap peas
  12. Potatoes


  1. Sweet potatoes
  2. Cauliflower
  3. Cantaloupes
  4. Grapefruits
  5. Eggplants
  6. Kiwis
  7. Papayas
  8. Mangoes
  9. Asparagus
  10. Onions
  11. Frozen sweet peas
  12. Cabbage
  13. Pineapple
  14. Sweet corn
  15. Avocados

All fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly washed prior to consumption.

For the entire list, visit The Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.

Be Thankful, Be Green

Article from Fort Bragg Environmental Management

Thanksgiving is a time of celebration … a time when families and friends come together for fun, fellowship and FOOD!

Thanksgiving Dinner

Did you know that you can host a fabulous Thanksgiving and be sustainable, too?

Sustainable Fort Bragg would like to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and share some ideas for turning your holiday meal into an environmentally friendly feast.

– Purchase seasonal, locally harvested foods and locally raised meats for your meal. Locally produced foods are often fresher and more flavorful. In addition, they support the area economy and regional farmers.

– Incorporate certified organic and minimally processed foods into your meal. Look for the USDA Organic Seal.

– The average American family discards 25 percent of all food prepared on Thanksgiving, so plan your meal wisely to minimize waste.

– Use environmentally-preferred and biobased cleansers to ready your home for your guests.

– Lower the setting on your thermostat. The oven and your holiday guests will provide plenty of warmth!

– Use reusable baking dishes, plates, glasses and cloth napkins rather than plastic, paper, Styrofoam or other disposable options. If you must use disposable items, then choose compostable, biodegradable or recyclable options and dispose of them sustainably.

– Conserve energy by preparing dishes in the microwave or on the range instead of in the oven whenever possible. If you prefer to use the oven, dishes that can be prepared at the same temperature may be placed in the oven together to save time and power.

– Adorn your table with natural materials. Fresh flowers, dried herbs, leaves, berries and pinecones are festive, sustainable and economical decorations. You can probably find these materials in your own yard, and they are biodegradable.

– Choose soy or vegetable based candles instead of paraffin candles. Paraffin candles are petroleum-based, and they can emit chemicals that diminish indoor air quality.

– If food remains following your meal, send a plate with each of your guests or incorporate it into other recipes.

– Wash only full loads of dishes to save energy and water.

– Recycle as much as possible. Remember: plastics, aluminum cans, steel cans, glass and paperboard boxes are all recyclable. If your community recycling program does not accept glass, you can recycle it at the Fort Bragg Recycling Center. The Fort Bragg Recycling Center is located on the northwest corner of Butner Road and Reilly Road in the Directorate of Public Works campus. The entrance is off Reilly Road, across from the veterinary clinic and just prior to Pope Army Airfield. Hours are Monday through Friday, 0730 to 1600.

– Dispose of your waste vegetable oil properly. Pour it into a sealed container and place the container in your household refuse, or recycle it at the Fort Bragg Recycling Center. Never pour vegetable oil into a drain!

– If you live off post, consider composting your vegetable scraps.

Here are more ideas for a green Thanksgiving …

How to Go Green on Thanksgiving Day

A Greener Thanksgiving

Your Guide to a Green Thanksgiving

Tips for a Green Thanksgiving

Action Tips: Have a Green Thanksgiving

Recipes for Thanksgiving Leftovers from The Food Network

12 Creative Turkey Sandwich Recipes

Makeovers for Thanksgiving Leftovers

16 Recipes for Your Thanksgiving Leftovers

Thanksgiving: Round Two

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables: Should You Buy Organic?

Sweet strawberries, juicy watermelons and ripe peaches are all heralds of the summer season. To celebrate these healthy foods, June is National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month.

Fruits and vegetables are delicious elements of our diets, and they provide vital vitamins and nutrients. However, some varieties can contain pesticide residues that are detrimental to public health.

Fruits and Vegetables

Pesticides are chemicals used to eliminate or control a myriad of agricultural pests that can damage crops, harm livestock and reduce farm productivity. These pests include insects, rodents, weeds and molds. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, over one billion tons of pesticides are used in the United States annually, accounting for 22 percent of the estimated 5.2 billion pounds of pesticides used worldwide each year. The EPA, the Food and Drug Administration and the US Department of Agriculture regulate the use of many pesticides. Although the use of particular pesticides has been restricted, some of their chemicals are still quite persistent in the environment and still pollute the fruits and vegetables cultivated in contaminated soil.

Pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables are a cause for concern for three reasons.

First, these chemicals are easily absorbed into the fruits and vegetables that we consume. In fact, government tests found that detectable pesticide residues were present on 67 percent of food samples even after the foods had been washed or peeled.

Second, a significant section of the population is exposed to pesticides, which are easily absorbed into the body. A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national bio-monitoring program detected pesticides in the organ systems of 96 percent of a sample of 5,000 Americans.

Finally, the presence of pesticide residues in the body has been associated with neurological disorders, cancer, hormone disruption and skin, eye and lung irritation. Children are especially vulnerable to the effects. A type of these chemicals known as organophosphate pesticides can adversely affect their IQ and brain development.

Individuals can, however, reduce their exposure to pesticides and curtail their negative effects. The Environmental Working Group – an environmental health research and advocacy agency – has estimated that individuals can reduce their pesticide exposure by as much as 80 percent by consuming organic versions of certain fruits and vegetables.

The EWG has developed The Shopper’s Guide to educate individuals about the pesticides in fruits and vegetables. To create the guide, the EWG analyzed pesticide residue information from the USDA and the FDA. The agency then used six of these measures to calculate a composite score for each fruit and vegetable in the study. In The Shopper’s Guide, low scores indicate higher levels of pesticide residues while high scores indicate lower levels of pesticide residues.


The Dirty Dozen is the EWG’s list of the produce that is most commonly contaminated with pesticide residues. To avoid exposure to these chemicals, consumers should purchase these foods organically, if possible.

– Apples
– Strawberries
– Grapes
– Celery
– Peaches
– Spinach
– Sweet bell peppers
– Imported nectarines
– Cucumbers
– Cherry tomatoes
– Imported snap peas
– Potatoes

Consumers should also purchase kale, collard greens and summer squash organically because even though they do not meet the traditional criteria for inclusion in The Dirty Dozen, these foods can be commonly contaminated with pesticides that are exceptionally detrimental to the nervous system. Individuals who want to avoid Genetically Modified Organisms or GMOs should also purchase organic fruits and vegetables.


The Clean Fifteen is a list of the produce that is least commonly contaminated with pesticide residues.

– Sweet potatoes
– Cauliflower
– Cantaloupes
– Grapefruits
– Eggplants
– Kiwis
– Papayas
– Mangoes
– Asparagus
– Onions
– Frozen sweet peas
– Cabbages
– Pineapples
– Sweet corn
– Avocados

Visit The Environmental Working Group

The Dirty Dozen app is also available for Apple products.


Generally, organic foods are healthier for the public and for the environment because they contain no pesticides. They promote environmentally sound farming practices that minimize soil erosion, respect workers, conserve energy, protect water quality and support animal welfare. Organic foods also offer fresher flavors, and they are consistently affordable.

The term organic can be green-washed, though. Organic is a designation used by the USDA National Organic Program to certify foods that are produced with no synthetic chemicals or fertilizers, genetic engineering or radiation. To ensure the purchase of organic foods, consumers should buy products labeled with the USDA Organic seal. On fruits, vegetables and other whole foods such as meats and eggs, the official USDA Organic seal indicates that the product is certified to be truly organic in accordance with NOP standards. For foods with multiple ingredients, a classification system is used to indicate the use of organic elements. Foods with no USDA seal may or may not be organic because organic labeling is voluntary for the producer.


Organic Labels



Go Organic

National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month

CDC Nutrition for Everyone

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Green Grilling

This Memorial Day, will you fire up your grill? If hosting a barbecue is in your plans this season, you are among the 75 percent of American homes that own at least one grill and one of the 60 million Americans who will use a grill during the summer holidays. However, you are also contributing to the 225,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide released during these celebrations. No need to bar the ‘cue from your party, though. Grilling can be fun, healthy and sustainable throughout the summer with some simple considerations.

Grilled Chicken

Propane, natural gas and charcoal all have their benefits and disadvantages.
In terms of derivation, propane and natural gas are non-renewable resources whereas charcoal is a renewable resource. Propane and natural gas are fossil fuels derived from an accumulation of remains of organic matter. On the other hand, charcoal is a bio-fuel produced by burning a carbon based material such as wood.
The manufacturing processes used to extract these materials from their natural states are all energy intensive, and they also have many environmental impacts. Propane and natural gas are extracted by methods which can create pollution and disrupt natural habitats. The production of charcoal, though, emits a myriad of carcinogenic industrial chemicals including methanol and acetone. Whereas charcoal briquettes are recycled from waste wood and sawdust, many commercial varieties also contain substances such as nitrate accelerants, binding agents and ash whitening agents that can leach into food. Natural lump charcoal is manufactured from new wood and can contribute to deforestation if the sources are improperly managed, but it usually contains fewer additives.
Emissions are another consideration for these fuels. Propane and natural gas burn cleaner than charcoal. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, charcoal briquettes are the most common form of charcoal used on home grills, but they release 105 times more carbon monoxide than propane. An Environmental Impact Assessment Review conducted in Britain discovered that a charcoal grill emits 2,200 pounds of carbon dioxide in its life whereas a natural gas grill emits 769 pounds of carbon dioxide in its life. Self-lighting charcoal and the lighter fluids used to ignite charcoal fires also release volatile organic compounds into the air when they are burned. Each year, Americans burn 46,000 tons of lighter fluid that send over 14,000 tons of VOCs into the atmosphere.
Furthermore, waste can be a concern when selecting propane, natural gas or charcoal. Propane and natural gas generate no waste because their receptacles can be reused or recycled. Charcoal creates waste that must be properly handled to prevent residual fire.
Ultimately, propane and natural gas are more environmentally sound than charcoal. If you prefer to use charcoal, however, the most sustainable option is natural lump charcoal that is made from certified, sustainably harvested wood and contains no chemical additives. Charcoal chimneys, electric charcoal starters and natural combustion agents such as fat wood are environmentally preferred alternatives to lighter fluid.

• Send invitations to your barbecue electronically to reduce paper waste.
• Encourage your guests to carpool, use mass transit, cycle or walk to your barbecue.
• Use locally harvested foods for your barbecue.
• Use reusable dishes instead of disposable options. If you must use disposable items, choose compostable or recyclable products. Avoid Styrofoam.
• Avoid single serving products to reduce waste created by excess packaging.
• Buy products in recyclable or reusable containers.
• Use your grill only in well-ventilated areas. If they are not used properly, grills can emit high levels of carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas.
• Extinguish your grill completely to prevent residual fires that can damage property and the natural environment.
• Clean your grill with natural, biobased cleansers to prevent the transfer of chemicals from the grill to your food.
• Always place litter in an appropriate container.
• Recycle as much as possible.
• Send food home with your guests.


Green Grilling

For further reading, visit The Tree Hugger How to Go Green Guide for Barbecues.