Grounds for Change: Is Your Local Coffee Shop Really as Green as It Claims?

You’re strolling down the street, coffee cravings kicking in, when you spot a café claiming to be 'eco-friendly'. But how can you really know if they're really as green as they claim? Is it just about the recycled napkins and bamboo stirrers, or is there more to it? 

Next time you're buying your daily oat milk cappuccino, let's look at how you can spot signs of sustainability, and what questions you can ask to ensure you're getting the best product for you, and the environment.

Understanding Green Credentials

An easy guide for certifications to look out for in the window of your favourite coffee shop:

  • B Corp Certification

This is the cherry on top of the cake. If a business is B Corp certified, forget the rest.  To be awarded this, a business must surpass high standards for their entire social and environmental performance. It screams, ‘we care!’ Not only for the planet, but for workers, customers, and communities too. If you want to contribute to a brighter future, spend your money in one of the 1,500 B Corps in the UK who’re already paving the way.

  • Soil Association Certification

Think about it: Would you rather sip on a latte made from high-quality organic ingredients, or beans grown in chemical-laden soil? That's where the Soil Association Certification comes in, the UK’s only organic award for restaurants and cafés, they ensure your coffee is produced to the highest standards of care.

  • Rainforest Alliance Certified

This certification is all about keeping rainforests lush and our coffee-growing communities thriving. If your café's coffee carries this badge, give yourself a pat on the back for supporting biodiversity, and improving livelihoods.

  • Food Made Good Sustainability Standard

This is like the Oscar of sustainability for restaurants. It checks everything from where they buy their carrots to how they deal with leftovers. If a café has this, you can bet they’re doing more than just separating their recycling. 

  • Vegan Trademark

If you're an animal lover, look for the vegan approved logo. This guarantees that not a single animal product has crossed the threshold of your food or drink.

What to Ask When It Comes to Eco-friendly Coffee Shops?

You’ve found the perfect spot, you’re ready for an afternoon pick me up, but your ethical brain is making you doubt your choices. Don’t worry! Here are a few questions you can ask your barista to double-check that you’re getting exactly what’s advertised.

1. "Are Your Cups Recyclable?”

With over 2.5 billion coffee cups being thrown away every year in the UK alone, this should be a main priority for any café conscious about protecting the environment. So, are they serving your flat white in a single-use cup? Or do they offer recyclable or, better yet, compostable cups? Tip: Always come prepared and bring your own reusable cup from home - some café's even offer a discount for being a green queen.

2. "This Coffee is Delicious, Where Do You Buy Your Coffee Beans?"

Next up, ingredients. Are they sourcing the coffee from European or local roasters? Small businesses supporting one another is not only an act of neighbourly love, but also great for the environment. Remember, fewer food miles = happier planet.

Location is only half of the question, you must also get right to the source. Any quality coffee should have a great backstory, and if the barista doesn’t know it – someone else will. Sourcing coffee from a roaster that works directly with farmers shouldn’t be a luxury, but a norm. Great relationships keep an open line of communication and creates sustainability on both sides. The better the relationship, the better the coffee.

3. "Everything is So Shiny in Here! Are Your Cleaning Products Eco-Friendly?"

It's all in the small details, that can often go unnoticed when distracted by pretty latte art, but if in doubt, just ask! From vegan approved machinery, to cruelty free cleaning products, there’s no excuse to buy anything that isn't kind to animals, or sustainable for the environment. 

4. "I Can’t Quite Finish This Brownie, Can I Get a Box to Take away?”

Food waste, the villain of our story. Are there designated food waste bins nearby? Are they offering discounted "end of day" specials? Donating to local charities? Composting food scraps? The more creative, the better! Tip: Bring Tupperware with you, when possible, to avoid throwing away any delicious treats that might tempt you on your visit!

5. "Got Any Plant-Based Options on the Menu?"

Last but not least, check out their menu. Unlike larger coffee chains, if a small independent café is advertising plant-based options it’s usually a good sign they're thinking about their environmental impact. A small menu offering meat-free alternatives is usually through ethical choice, rather than just following the latest food trends.

So, there you have it! The next time you're in line for your morning brew, take a moment to think - is this just a caffeine fix, or is it helping to support an eco-friendly future?

Remember, we've only got one planet, so don’t let her down over something as simple as our coffee choices. Who knows? Maybe next time you'll be sipping on a cup of sustainability, with a dash of responsibility.

Guest blogger, Holly Dodd

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