Instant coffee is the better choice for your carbon footprint

Drinking coffee makes many of us feel good, so it makes sense that we would want to feel good about how it is produced.

When it comes to sustainable coffee, the most important choice is how the coffee has been cultivated, and its impact on the ecosystems where it is grown. But you may not realise that how you prepare your coffee at home can add 50 per cent or more to its overall environmental footprint.

Australians’ appreciation of coffee has changed beyond recognition over the past couple of decades, yet many households still have a jar of instant coffee in the kitchen. We’re not the only ones — roughly half the world’s countries have significant instant coffee markets and the global market is growing.

To figure out a product’s overall environmental impact — at every stage from production, to shipping, to consumption — researchers use a method called “life cycle assessment”. This method has been used to calculate the footprint of everything from running shoes to biofuels.

Coffee is a classic candidate for life cycle assessments, because there are so many different options to compare. You might think that instant coffee is the most processed of coffee products and therefore a less sustainable choice, but appearances can be deceptive.