Tuesday, April 13, 2010


The trees play numerous roles in the planet's ecology. We only have a tiny fraction of the forests that were here just a couple of hundred years ago, and what we still have are endangered. Helping to sustain the Earth comes down to saving our trees.(And, yes, it’s OK, and even advisable, to be a “tree-hugger.” Grandma is an unabashed "tree-hugger".)

That brings us to today's green idea, and that is changing our consumer habits. When consumer products we use involve a lot of acreage or a lot of water, we are, in fact, killing our forests. Other than cutting down on the use of paper products, which you should be doing, there is one important thing that everyone can do and that’s switching out some of the products that we consume to others are as harmful. The harm that products do has to do with how they are produced, transported, packaged, and consumed. I’m limiting this discussion to the subject of coffee and tea drinking. (For both health and ecological reasons, I assume that you’re already not buying soft drinks on a regular basis.)

Coffee is the world’s most commonly traded commodity after crude oil, and tea is the world’s most consumed beverage after water. So tea and coffee are super important economic items, and that means there’s a lot of work to be done around reducing the use of these substances. The best thing you can do is to stop using coffee and tea and, instead, drink plenty of plain water and fruit juice. But a lot of people feel they need stimulants in order to function better - especially in the morning. So if you must drink coffee or tea, limit yourself to one or two cups per day. (Grandma is trying to do this on a regular basis.)

Coffee involves a much greater carbon footprint than tea - perhaps 10 times bigger. The water footprint of coffee is also more with tea using about 9 gallons of water per serving—compared to 33 gallons for soda, and 37 gallons for coffee. Obviously, just plain water is the best alternative, and it's a lot less expensive and eco-wise to filter your drinking water at home.

If you're a dyed-in-the-wool coffee or tea lover, then prepare and consume most of your drinks at home. Coffee shop drinks are not only a lot more costly, but involve a larger carbon footprint. When you are away from home and looking for a hot drink, be sure to carry your own mug. You’ll spend only a few dollars on a mug that you really like and, at the same time, feel better knowing that you’re being more eco-friendly. And, please, don’t even think of using disposable cups at your house – except maybe paper cups (never foam ones) for large group get-togethers where cleanup would be especially tiresome. One study showed that the average mug is used almost 3,000 times and the making of that cup and the water used to wash it create 30times less solid waste and represent 60 times less water than the same usage of paper cups.

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