Step one in reducing your office’s carbon footprint simply has to involve crushing one of the most stupid office habits – the take-away coffee. You all know the type, they “can’t even think” until they’ve had their morning flapaccino, or whatever the hell is being served in the name of coffee in their local store. Those cups either mount up as landfill, or breakdown into greenhouse gasses – in many cases both.
Sure the coffee may be “fair-trade” or “hand-picked by hobbits”, but those disposable (well, binnable – disposability was never really factored into the design of most throw-away coffee cups) coffee containers make a mockery of their socially-conscious contents.
What’s the answer? Get up from your desk right now and go out and buy a plunger, buy 500g of coffee beans and ask the shopkeeper to “grind it for a plunger.” Don’t worry, they’ll know what you mean. There are coffee-bean sellers all over this planet, so I am sure there’s one near where you work. Making a plunger full of coffee for six people takes about five minutes, including the time it takes for the coffee to stew. In that time you can rinse the cups.
A good metal plunger will keep coffee warm for an hour or so. Don’t get the glass ones as they lose heat very quickly.
In this way you’ll save money (especially if you can get the office, or co-workers, to help pay for the plunger and beans), enjoy better coffee and save carbon emissions.
A word of warning, however. Many offices will respond to such an action by installing one of those new-fangled coffee in a cartridge machines that involve you putting the right coloured sachet in the slot and hitting the button to get your brew. The coffee is, by and large, pure filth you wouldn’t give to your narcoleptic dog, and the cost to the environment from those little metal sachets is a nightmare.
Some people will moan and say, “Oh, but I like my flubbochino! Plunger coffee doesn’t have the frothy milk.” Explain that they are just being precious and that the whole point of drinking coffee at work is to get you away from your desk for a minute or two and fuel your veins with caffeine. Ask them, “Is it really worth it?”
But if you will insist that having frothy milk is really worth the environmental harm that is done, vastly out of proportion to the actual volume or enjoyment of that milk, then so be it. I encourage you in this instance to choose your coffee shop properly and not just go for the massive franchise next door. Walk there, don’t get a cab, order them in or drive to get them. Drink them there. You don’t need the cup, or the bag, or the little cardboard holder they give you so you don’t burn yourself.
Carbon emissions reduction is all about prioritisation, and understanding that it’s no longer free to dump waste into the air. The planet is warming due to billions of small actions by millions of people (billions of the world’s poorest people barely contribute to global warming but are already the hardest hit by it). Direct actions from millions of us are required to push things in the right direction. That and some awesome new technology that solves the problem once and for all. Perhaps it will emerge from a caffeine-fuelled flash of inspiration.
Dave Sag is the CEO of Carbon Planet, a global carbon emissions company. Carbon Planet consults on all things carbon, ranging from conducting formal carbon emissions audits and ghg life-cycle analysis, to comprehensive carbon matchmaking and helping projects generate their own carbon credits. Carbon Planet builds emissions calculators and retails carbon credits to the general public and business alike.