Power to the pods.
That’s one of the bottom lines of a study by Canadian researchers to determine the climate change impact of the essential ingredient to surviving morning — coffee. Another major conclusion they reached — that may seem hard to swallow — was that saving the planet might require a lot less coffee.
Coffee is a big deal globally. The British Coffee Association estimated about 2 billion cups of coffee a day are consumed. The website coffee-rank claims that in the U.S., about 65 percent of its population has coffee every day, far above the figure of 30 to 40 percent for the world overall.
All that led researchers Luciano Rodrigues Viana, Charles Marty, Jean-François Boucher and Pierre-Luc Dessureault of the University of Quebec at Chicoutimi to compare how coffee is made to see which way is kindest to the planet.
— New York Post (@nypost) January 19, 2023
“Limiting your contribution to climate change requires an adapted diet, and coffee is no exception. Choosing a mode of coffee preparation that emits less GHGs [greenhouse gases] and moderating your consumption are part of the solution,” they said, according to the study published in early January on the website The Conversation.
The researchers compared coffee pods — which the study calls capsules — the standard coffee maker, a French press, and instant coffee.
“Our analysis clearly showed that traditional filter coffee has the highest carbon footprint, mainly because a greater quantity of coffee powder is used to produce the amount of coffee. This process also consumes more electricity to heat the water and keep it warm,” they wrote.
On the grounds that using less coffee produces a lower carbon footprint, instant coffee took first prize, “due to the low amount of soluble coffee used per cup, the kettle’s lower electricity consumption compared to a coffee maker and the absence of organic waste to be treated.”
“At the consumer level, avoiding wasting coffee and water is the most effective way to reduce the carbon footprint of coffee consumption,” researcher Viana said, according to The Washington Post.
But people do not always allow that option to actually be the best, they wrote.
“On the other hand, when consumers use a 20 percent surplus of coffee and heat twice the water needed (which is often the case), coffee capsules [pods] seem to be the best option. Why? Because the capsules allow you to optimize the amount of coffee and water per consumption,” the study said.
Pods, because of the container, often seem to be the least-friendly option, one expert noted, according to The Washington Post.
“As a consumer, what we’re left with is the visible waste in front of us, and that often tends to be packages and plastics. But the impact of packaging, in general, is much, much smaller than the product itself,” said Shelie Miller, a professor of sustainable systems at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability.
“I don’t think that capsules are a miracle solution. But it is a good example that illustrates our cognitive biases,” Viana said, according to Euronews.
But the study said there is, of course, a dark side to pods.
“[T]he convenience of capsule machines can lead consumers to double their coffee consumption, thus making this environmental advantage redundant,” the study said, noting that issues with how pods are recycled could further negate their advantage.
The study also noted that for anyone who wants to obsess about how to save the planet and have the coffee they want, “more than half of the carbon footprint of coffee comes from the steps taken by coffee producers and suppliers.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.