Year for the Planet Week 6: Rethinking My Coffee Habit

Before you can fix the world, you have to fix yourself. Year for a Planet is a personal challenge to be a better human for the planet for a whole year. This year, 2017, is where I deal with my food choices.

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If you thought I was going to give up coffee, you are dead wrong.

My blood type might as well be coffee because I drink so much of it. But from my six cups a day in my early twenties, I have decreased my consumption to two to three cups, taken at different points of the day. Thanks to taekwondo, I have kept a pretty healthy routine, and I know how to reset after days of excess.

Among my eating habits, this is the one that I was dreading the most.  My preference for iced coffee means I usually have to buy it from cafes and stores instead of making it at home since it just tastes better. But if I were to eat for the planet, this is something I have to change. I’ve put this off until the last because it’s just So. Damn. Difficult. But my current coffee rituals use so many plastic cups, straws, and aluminum cans; most of my daily waste production is from this drink alone.

There was no way around it; I had to learn to make coffee myself since I need it as soon as I wake up. And so I went through a very messy journey of making my own cold brew. I soak two cups of medium ground coffee beans in nine cups of water overnight and filter the solution the next day. It’s quite the ordeal. The filtering, I mean. I have organic coffee filters and do this by hand, but doing this gives me a supply for the week.

I also tried other options given by friends, such as using my coffee machine to make an espresso then pouring it over ice. I confess that none of these experiments have given me “the perfect cup” yet, but I’m prepared to keep experimenting. Sometimes, the ghost of bad habits linger in our taste buds.

I also realized I had to make my own milk. A daily diet with lots of soy milk and tofu meant I was consuming about five servings of soy a day, which is on the high side. Soy is hotly debated because of its purported links to cancer, so this was a red flag.

Lifestyle changes mean continuous learning and experimentation, and in any case, I believe in moderation so I looked at other options. Almond milk was a good candidate, but then I learned that it takes a lot of water to make and was not very good for the environment. Anyway, it’s twice as expensive as soy milk in Manila and I couldn’t find a local brand. Making my own almond milk is expensive and also required more filtering, which my patience just wouldn’t take.

Thankfully, there are plenty of choices for non-animal milk, and this week I finally hit on the most viable option for my current circumstances: cashew milk. Thanks to a high-speed blender, I didn’t need to filter it and there were local nuts available. I just need to make sure to stir it before pouring because the mixture tends to settle. I now use it for my overnight oats, smoothies, and coffee.

I believe that living in harmony with the planet does not need overly extreme measures, but a balance. I don’t think it means living as a hippie in the mountains (unless it is your preference), but to make better choices. There are habits you are better off quitting altogether, and there are those that may just need overhauling. Many times these past few weeks, I have found that it’s best if I make it myself. It only requires a little bit of time, but compared to going to the grocery, lining up to make my purchases, getting strange looks from people for refusing plastic, going back home and having a lot of waste afterwards anyway, I think it’s the more sane option.

Sustainability should not equate to suffering; in fact, I would argue that it’s the opposite. You always have a choice, and as human creativity comes up with more solutions, there will be even more choices.

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