Seek New Coffee Buzz

Caffeine seems to be a necessity for most college students — and that caffeine usually comes in the form of coffee. But of all the factors that young adults consider when picking out their favorite form of java — dark or light roast, cream or sugar, drip or expresso — one factor that is often overlooked is the ethics of our coffee choices.

A recent swarm of media attention has highlighted the wastefulness of “K-Cups,” small plastic cups popularized by the Keurig company by their ease and convenience. K-Cups are neither biodegradable nor recyclable. In other words, the 9 billion pods synthesized since the product’s genesis are destined to sit in landfills.

The Keurig company is working on making recyclable pods by 2020, and users of K-Cups have alternative options for a convenient coffee fix (try a french press or Chemex; both affordable, convenient options). But avoiding environmentally detrimental K-Cups are not the only ethical decision of which coffee lovers should be wary.

It is a common occurrence for coffee farmers in the Global South to go broke, failing to support their families and afford essentials. The coffee profits are eaten up by middle-men, and giant corporations such as Starbucks ignore pleas from small farms in the name of ‘consumer freedom,’ the demand from customers for low prices.

Coffee itself is not bad. However, consumers should be aware of the ethical implications of their choices. Stumptown purchases direct trade coffee from farmers based on the cost of production. The direct-trade coffee might be a little pricier than traditional varieties, and more sustainable coffee-making methods might be a little less convenient than K-Cups, but it’s up to us as consumers to decide whether the implications of these choices is worth a little first-world inconvenience.